awful

adjective
aw·ful | \ˈȯ-fəl \

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 intensive an 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, especially as an adverb of adjective senses 3 and 4 -flē \ adverb
an awfully [=extremely] long time behaving awfully
awfulness \-fəl-nəs \ 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

The second mission, which asked me to invade a human compound and kill everyone in sight, exposed awful human AI and familiar stealth-and-kill strategies. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Days Gone world premiere hands-on: Have you played a zombie game before?," 22 May 2018 The only public transit is the Silver Line, a bus line that gets caught in the awful traffic. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "How multimodal city councilor Michelle Wu gets around Boston," 9 May 2018 But the Crimea thing highlights something much more important, which is this awful meeting of sort of the Bernie bros and the Trump people on this question of eating away at other country's sovereignty. NBC News, "Meet the Press - July 8, 2018," 8 July 2018 The performance continued the puzzling trend for Chen: amazing at home, awful on the road. Matthew Defranks, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Wei-Yin Chen dominant again at home, but Marlins lose to Phillies," 14 July 2018 But also by the deep trauma felt by those left behind, even those as young as Clarissa, who may not remember the awful details of the day her mother died, but still feels the weight of it from those around her. Helen Ubiñas, Philly.com, "Families of homicide victims, bonded by love | Helen Ubiñas," 13 July 2018 Well, an awful correctional facility is merely one of Castle Rock’s many corrosive ills. refinery29.com, "Handmaid’s Tale," 13 July 2018 The Rays are proposing a $1 billion indoor stadium to replace the awful Tropicana Field, so at least nobody can watch them in style and comfort. Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com, "Paul Daugherty's Morning Line: Cincinnati Reds might be lucky AND good," 11 July 2018 Hurdler Alaysha Johnson had issues getting her blocks situated, got an awful start and was never in the race. Ken Goe, OregonLive.com, "USC claims the NCAA women's track championship as the Oregon Ducks wilt in the rain," 9 June 2018

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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Learn More about awful

Dictionary Entries near awful

awestruck

aweto

awf

awful

AWG

a whale of a time

awheel

Phrases Related to awful

an awful lot

an awful lot of

Statistics for awful

Last Updated

19 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for awful

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

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More Definitions for awful

awful

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of awful

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: extremely bad or unpleasant

: causing feelings of fear and wonder

awful

adverb

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

: very or extremely

awful

adjective
aw·ful | \ˈȯ-fəl \

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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Comments on awful

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