\ ə-ˈgast How to pronounce aghast (audio) \

Definition of aghast

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

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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."

Examples of aghast in a Sentence

The news left her aghast. Critics were aghast to see how awful the play was.
Recent Examples on the Web Some web users were aghast, calling Ryanair inappropriate or insensitive to the real suffering caused by COVID-19. Fortune, 14 Dec. 2021 But members were aghast to hear what their colleagues were going through and appalled to hear how much the number of threats had increased. Los Angeles Times, 22 Sep. 2021 Writing in Politico in January 2016, when most conservatives were still aghast at Trump’s rise, Carlson made the case for Trump, sort of. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 16 Sep. 2021 The longtime national chairman of NABLEO, which represents 9,000 Black and Hispanic law enforcement officers, was aghast., 7 Sep. 2021 Democrats were aghast to learn this year that the Trump administration’s Justice Department had subpoenaed some House members’ communications as part of an investigation into leaks related to the Russia election interference investigation. Brian Contreras, Los Angeles Times, 2 Sep. 2021 Tech leaders, in turn, are suddenly aghast at the package of bills passed by the House Judiciary Committee last week designed to substantially constrain the industry's most profitable companies, including Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. Star Tribune, 4 July 2021 The attorneys for 40 ex-employees weren’t buying it, of course, and are aghast that the NFL would choose to protect Snyder instead of demand real accountability., 3 July 2021 On Wednesday night, those inside Philippe-Chatrier Court had been aghast when the match was stopped shortly before curfew and they were asked to leave. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, 11 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'aghast.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of aghast

13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for aghast

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

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

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Last Updated

17 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Aghast.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for aghast


\ ə-ˈgast \

Kids Definition of aghast

: struck with terror, surprise, or horror The news left her aghast.

More from Merriam-Webster on aghast

Nglish: Translation of aghast for Spanish Speakers


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