ap·​pall ə-ˈpȯl How to pronounce appall (audio)
variants or less commonly appal
appalled; appalling

transitive verb

: to overcome with consternation, shock, or dismay
We were appalled by his behavior.
Choose the Right Synonym for appall

dismay, appall, horrify, daunt mean to unnerve or deter by arousing fear, apprehension, or aversion.

dismay implies that one is disconcerted and at a loss as to how to deal with something.

dismayed at the size of the job

appall implies that one is faced with that which perturbs, confounds, or shocks.

I am appalled by your behavior

horrify stresses a reaction of horror or revulsion.

was horrified by such wanton cruelty

daunt suggests a cowing, disheartening, or frightening in a venture requiring courage.

a cliff that would daunt the most intrepid climber

Examples of appall in a Sentence

The thought of war appalls me. It appalls me to think of the way those children have been treated.
Recent Examples on the Web That kind of appalls me to think that people need not expect that of themselves. David Marchese Photograph By Mamadi Doumbouya, New York Times, 15 Feb. 2024 What appalls him now is a lack of accountability in Netanyahu’s government. David Remnick, The New Yorker, 14 Jan. 2024 Kunzig: Alejandra, the weather this year kept finding fresh ways to appall us. Susan Goldberg, National Geographic, 9 Dec. 2021 The whiteness of the fantasy village will appall some — including, presumably, those who protested Gelman’s leadership of The Wing, that women-only co-working operation whose own workforce was notoriously segregated by race. Grace Lavery, Curbed, 20 Apr. 2022 Are there some whose only aim is to appall and disturb? Mark Shanahan,, 2 Dec. 2022 These attacks weren't meant to appall liberals; they were meant to entice conservatives. Grayson Quay, The Week, 21 July 2022 To borrow a phrase from 19th-century Parisian poets, Épater la bourgeoisie—to shock and appall the middle class. Dan Neil, WSJ, 23 June 2022 No television cameras documented the brutal violence or produced the images needed to appall Americans in other states. Francine Uenuma, Smithsonian Magazine, 26 Feb. 2020

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

Word History


Middle English apallen, appallen "to grow faint (of strength), fade (of emotions), dim (of honor, fame), (transitive) to make fade, allay, tarnish," probably borrowed from Middle French apalir "to become pale, make pale," going back to Old French, from a-, prefix forming transitive verbs (going back to Latin ad- ad-) + palir "to become pale" — more at pale entry 2

Note: The origin of this verb is not completely clear. In Middle English both ap(p)allen and pallen "to pall entry 1," taken as an aphetic form of ap(p)allen, consistently show spellings with a double l that reflect short a, which is confirmed by the modern outcome [pɔl]; note the rhyme falleth / appalleth in Gower's Confessio Amantis. If Middle French apalir is the source, there would appear to be scant grounds for -ll-, as unprefixed palir yields Middle English palen, modern pale. In Anglo-French apalir is apparently unattested—or at least not entered in the Anglo-Norman Dictionary—though palir is occasionally attested with -ll-. Both ap(p)allen and pallen at a fairly early date show semantic extension well beyond the literal base "to make pale."

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of appall was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near appall

Cite this Entry

“Appall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ap·​pall ə-ˈpȯl How to pronounce appall (audio)
: to cause to feel fear, shock, or disgust

More from Merriam-Webster on appall

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