adjective atro·cious \ ə-ˈtrō-shəs \
|Updated on: 13 Aug 2018

Definition of atrocious

1 : extremely wicked, brutal, or cruel : barbaric
  • prisoners subjected to atrocious treatment
2 : appalling, horrifying
  • the atrocious weapons of modern war
  • an atrocious accident
3 a : utterly revolting : abominable
  • atrocious working conditions
  • atrocious weather
b : of very poor quality
  • atrocious handwriting





Examples of atrocious in a Sentence

  1. … much of the manufactured-home industry employed sales practices that were atrocious. The need for meaningful down payments was frequently ignored. Sometimes fakery was involved. Moreover, impossible-to-meet monthly payments were being agreed to by borrowers who signed up because they had nothing to lose. —Warren E. BuffettNewsweek9 Mar. 2009
  2. In the hands of a succession of more or less sadistic colonial governors and prison officers, convicts, particularly repeat offenders, found themselves subjected to atrocious punishments, flogged, committed to chain gangs, kept in underground pits, starved, and bullied. —Caroline MooreheadNew York Review of Books16 Nov. 2006
  3. It would seem that by now the Tigers might be weary of analyzing their roller-coaster season, sick of reliving their atrocious 9-23 start and comparing it with their recent hot streak. Sports Illustrated4 Sept. 2000
  4. an atrocious period in the nation's history

  5. an atrocious crime that shocked even hardened members of the police force

Recent Examples of atrocious from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of atrocious

Latin atroc-, atrox gloomy, atrocious, from atr-, ater black + -oc-, -ox (akin to Greek ōps eye) — more at eye

ATROCIOUS Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of atrocious for English Language Learners

  • : very evil or cruel

  • : very bad

ATROCIOUS Defined for Kids


adjective atro·cious \ ə-ˈtrō-shəs \

Definition of atrocious for Students

1 : extremely brutal, cruel, or wicked
  • an atrocious crime
2 : very bad
  • atrocious weather
  • atrocious manners


  • behaved atrociously

Law Dictionary


adjective atro·cious \ ə-ˈtrō-shəs \

legal Definition of atrocious

: characterized by extreme cruelty or viciousness
  • atrocious assault and battery

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up atrocious? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


having an air of easy unconcern

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens-painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!