1

awful

adjective aw·ful \ ˈȯ-fəl \

Definition of awful

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

awfully

play \ˈȯ-fə-lē, especially as an adverb of adjective senses 3 and 4 -flē\ adverb
    • an awfully [=extremely] long time
    • behaving awfully

awfulness

play \-fəl-nəs\ noun

Using awful as an Adjective and Adverb

Many 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 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. Both adverbs remain in widespread use.
    • a sad state of affairs and awful tough on art
    • —H. L. Mencken
    • the awfully rich young American
    • —Henry James
    • decided to play it so awfully safe
    • —A. M. Schlesinger born 1917


Examples of awful in a Sentence

  1. They heard the most awful sounds.

  2. Awful things began to happen.

  3. He has some awful disease.

  4. That joke is just awful.

  5. That's an awful thing to say.

  6. Who painted the house that awful color?

  7. The mountains have an awful majesty.

Recent Examples of awful from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of awful

see 1awe


2

awful

adverb

Definition of awful

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

Examples of awful in a Sentence

  1. We haven't heard from him in an awful long time.

  2. You've come an awful long way.

Origin and Etymology of awful

see 1awe



AWFUL Defined for English Language Learners

awful

adjective

Definition of awful for English Language Learners

  • : extremely bad or unpleasant

  • : causing feelings of fear and wonder


awful

adverb

Definition of awful for English Language Learners

  • : very or extremely


AWFUL Defined for Kids

1

awful

adjective aw·ful \ ˈȯ-fəl \

Definition of awful for Students

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

2

awful

adverb

Definition of awful for Students

:awfully
  • That's an awful dangerous stunt.


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