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 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 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 \ -​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

The awful things that had gone wrong in their families could be righted, fixed, altered with a basketball, a football, a baseball. David M. Shribman, WSJ, "‘Tigerland’ Review: Playing the Game Their Way," 18 Jan. 2019 For 2019, the Mustang GT again makes hay, trampling into the spot vacated by the Camaro, whose transcendent chassis failed to prop up its awful outward visibility, practicality, and looks in the face of withering 10Best competition. Car and Driver, "2019 10Best Cars," 28 Nov. 2018 The same people who have said these awful things have also asked why Ford waited so long to come forward. Kate Gardner, Teen Vogue, "Susan Collins Failed Maine When She Voted to Confirm Brett Kavanaugh," 9 Oct. 2018 Because there's somebody else besides Eddie ready to welcome Grace back—the one who's been getting into people's heads lately, causing them to do awful things like gut 16 grazing sheep. Tony Adler, Chicago Reader, "Ike Holter’s latest, The Light Fantastic, is darkly playful," 23 May 2018 An awful lot of stuff in that library is closed—for national security reasons, or for embarrassment to some liberal person or something. Eleanor Hildebrandt, Popular Mechanics, "Historian Robert Caro on the Importance of Analog Research in a Digital Age," 15 Apr. 2019 Every little ounce of character and history in the city had been torn down for the awful high-rise apartment complexes that have no design integrity whatsoever. Vogue, "For Libertine’s Johnson Hartig, Home Is Where the Art Is," 26 Apr. 2019 The Lakers have looked good, bad, awesome and truly awful since then. Ben Cohen, WSJ, "Buy Low on LeBron James and the Lakers," 15 Feb. 2019 The online abuse against Meghan Markle has been awful, especially throughout her pregnancy. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Audra McDonald Defends Meghan Markle Against Online Abuse & Press Intrusion," 10 Mar. 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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Learn More about awful

Dictionary Entries near awful

awestruck

aweto

awf

awful

AWG

a whale of a time

awheel

Statistics for awful

Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

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
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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with awful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for awful

Spanish Central: Translation of awful

Nglish: Translation of awful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of awful for Arabic Speakers

Comments on awful

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