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

Some of the proposals look an awful lot like work done by SpaceX and Masten Space Systems. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Rocket Report: Scotland’s NIMBY problem, SpaceX test firing, Soyuz mishap," 2 Nov. 2018 The smaller screen won't be great for YouTube videos, but the YouTube functionality on Google smart displays—which can't even show your YouTube subscription list—is awful. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Google Home Hub—Under the hood, it’s nothing like other Google smart displays," 10 Oct. 2018 But the interface is still awful: With every heartbeat, the brain, which has the consistency of pudding, moves in the skull. Jacqueline Detwiler, Popular Mechanics, "The Heroes of Science Who Are Unlocking the Brain," 3 Oct. 2018 Sure, there’s no fire yet, but that’s an awful lot of smoke. Brad Chacos, PCWorld, "New GeForce graphics cards inbound? Nvidia teases Gamescom event with 'spectacular surprises'," 30 July 2018 But there was something awful beyond the first impression. Carol Marbin Miller, miamiherald, "A painful reunion at school of horror," 11 July 2018 Then again, the Reds’ pitching staff is so awful that taking a chance on Harvey is probably worth it. Jon Tayler, SI.com, "Trade to Reds Might Be Worst-Case Scenario for Matt Harvey," 8 May 2018 The humidity isn’t so awful today but will build through Sunday and early next week, resulting in heat indices of 100 to 105, near-dangerous levels. A. Camden Walker, Washington Post, "D.C.-area forecast: New heat wave begins today, and the humidity will become oppressive by Sunday," 29 June 2018 Most normal people in cars will agree, though, that even if taking a few simple safety measures makes your drive take 11 to 15 seconds longer, injuring a cyclist (or worse) to save time is a pretty awful thing to do. Thomas Harlander, Los Angeles Magazine, "A Driver’s Guide to Not Being a Jerk to Cyclists," 21 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

Statistics for awful

Last Updated

30 Nov 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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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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