awful

adjective
aw·​ful | \ ˈȯ-fəl How to pronounce awful (audio) \

Definition of awful

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : extremely disagreeable or objectionable awful food awful behavior an awful experience
2 informal : exceedingly great used as an intensivean awful lot of money
3 : inspiring awe … the presence of Nature in all her awful loveliness.— George Eliot
4 : filled with awe: such as
a : deeply respectful or reverential
b obsolete : afraid, terrified

awful

adverb

Definition of awful (Entry 2 of 2)

chiefly US, informal
: very, extremely awful tired an awful long time

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Other Words from awful

Adjective

awfully \ ˈȯ-​fə-​lē How to pronounce awfully (audio) , especially as an adverb of adjective senses 3 and 4  -​flē \ adverb
an awfully [=extremely] long time behaving awfully
awfulness \ ˈȯ-​fəl-​nəs How to pronounce awfulness (audio) \ noun

Using Awful as an Adjective and Adverb: Usage Guide

Adjective

Some grammarians take issue with the senses of awful and awfully that do not convey the etymological connection with awe. However, senses 1 and 2 of the adjective were being used in speech and casual writing by the late 18th century. It is an awful while since you have heard from me … — John Keats (letter) There was an awful crowd … — Sir Walter Scott (letter) This is an awful thing to say to Oil Painters … — William Blake Adverbial use of awful as an intensifier began to appear in print in the early 19th century, as did the senses of awfully corresponding to senses 1 and 2 of the adjective. Awfully continues to enjoy widespread use in newspapers and the like. It is worth remembering that the vote in the Senate about the Gulf War was an awfully close 53 to 47 … — James P. Rubin "Let the good times roll" can be an awfully alluring philosophy … — Rod Dreher The adverb awful, on the other hand, is largely restricted to informal prose and to the spoken language it emulates and is chiefly an American use. I tell them that seven years is an awful long time. — Kenneth Feinberg Awful quiet out there, I thought. Disquietingly quiet. — Mike Sutter "There are some awful good golfers playing in the tournament this week," observed Cook. — George Geise

Examples of awful in a Sentence

Adjective They heard the most awful sounds. Awful things began to happen. He has some awful disease. That joke is just awful. That's an awful thing to say. Who painted the house that awful color? The mountains have an awful majesty. Adverb We haven't heard from him in an awful long time. You've come an awful long way.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Whatever the reason, the only area more disappointing than the Cowboys’ defense was on special teams, which were awful. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, "The next Cowboys head coach’s first order of business should be to fix the defense, and then come these decisions," 2 Jan. 2020 Episode 7 of The Mandalorian featured a flashback showing how Kuiil reprogrammed IG-11 to be a nurse rather than a murderer, and the sequence made the process sound an awful lot like raising a child. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "The Mandalorian Knows Why Heroes Wear Masks," 30 Dec. 2019 Brittany’s first experience at an indoor range was similar to my first — awful. Jon Caldara, The Denver Post, "Caldara: I gave a gun and you should too," 19 Dec. 2019 This is a book about likeable, ineffectual and mildly awful people. Naomi Datta, Quartz India, "Resume tip: Why be “passionate” when you can be a “thought leader”," 15 Dec. 2019 The guys in Philly like to talk about the process an awful lot. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bucks-Sixers marquee Christmas game provides the first matchup of the projected East favorites," 24 Dec. 2019 Your face looks an awful lot like a homosexual’s, but that’s no reason to accuse you of being a homosexual. SFChronicle.com, "News of the Day From Around the World," 21 Dec. 2019 The public has learned an awful lot of things along the way. Douglas Murray, National Review, "Brexit, for Real This Time," 19 Dec. 2019 If Tuesday was the ceiling, then this looked an awful lot like the floor. Zach Osterman, Indianapolis Star, "For IU basketball, blowout losses like this have become far too commonplace," 7 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'awful.' 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 awful

Adjective

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Adverb

1818, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for awful

Adjective

see awe entry 1

Adverb

see awe entry 1

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Time Traveler for awful

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for awful

Last Updated

12 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Awful.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/awful. Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for awful

awful

adjective
How to pronounce awful (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of awful

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: extremely bad or unpleasant
formal + old-fashioned : causing feelings of fear and wonder

awful

adverb

English Language Learners Definition of awful (Entry 2 of 2)

chiefly US, informal : very or extremely

awful

adjective
aw·​ful | \ ˈȯ-fəl How to pronounce awful (audio) \

Kids Definition of awful

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : extremely bad or unpleasant an awful cold Rodrick's band is REALLY awful, and I can't stand being home when they're having rehearsals.— Jeff Kinney, Wimpy Kid
2 : very much We have an awful lot to do.
3 : causing fear or terror an awful roar

awful

adverb

Kids Definition of awful (Entry 2 of 2)

: awfully That's an awful dangerous stunt.

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More from Merriam-Webster on awful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for awful

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with awful

Spanish Central: Translation of awful

Nglish: Translation of awful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of awful for Arabic Speakers

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