: struck with terror, amazement, or horror : shocked and upset
was aghast when she heard the news

Did you know?

If you are aghast, you might look like you've just seen a ghost, or something similarly shocking. Aghast traces back to a Middle English verb, gasten, meaning "to frighten." Gasten (which also gave us ghastly, meaning "terrible or frightening") comes from gast, a Middle English spelling of the word ghost. Gast also came to be used in English as a verb meaning "to scare." That verb is now obsolete, but its spirit lives on in words spoken by the character Edmund in William Shakespeare's King Lear: "gasted by the noise I made, full suddenly he fled."

Example Sentences

The news left her aghast. Critics were aghast to see how awful the play was.
Recent Examples on the Web Shiv is aghast and, before stomping off, calls Tom an empty suit. Anne Branigin, Washington Post, 29 May 2023 While some people are going all in and covering entire walls in fake books, others are aghast at the thought that someone would think to decorate with a book that isn’t real. Anna Kodé, New York Times, 28 Apr. 2023 The two converse in Arabic for a minute before Chammaa jumps up and puts a hand to her chest, visibly aghast. Los Angeles Times, 3 Mar. 2023 Marchers were beaten and bloodied by White law enforcement; much of a nation had watched newsreel footage and were aghast. Wil Haygood, Washington Post, 25 Apr. 2023 Long queues, a tedious registration process, and several other delays later, the attendees were aghast at finding hardly any investors at Greater Noida’s India Expo Centre and Mart. Mimansa Verma, Quartz, 30 Mar. 2023 Fingal is understandably aghast at this casual attitude toward countable reality. Charles Mcnultytheater Critic, Los Angeles Times, 3 Mar. 2023 Critics were aghast at the debate. John Kelly, Washington Post, 21 Feb. 2023 Legal Twitter was largely aghast at the White House's handling of President Joe Biden's classified document controversy, as a slow-drip drop in the saga continues to unfold. Ryan King, Washington Examiner, 14 Jan. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'aghast.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


alteration (with h after ghastly, ghost entry 1) of Middle English agast, from past participle of agasten "to frighten, become frightened," from a-, perfective prefix + gasten "to frighten" — more at abide, gast

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of aghast was in the 13th century


Dictionary Entries Near aghast

Cite this Entry

“Aghast.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aghast. Accessed 7 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


: struck with terror, amazement, or horror

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