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 awful (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 awful (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 But the House Committee approach will take on the awful challenge of climate change. Charles Tiefer, Forbes, 11 Sep. 2021 Decades later, very pregnant Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is getting roughed up by her awful husband. Michael Ordoña, Los Angeles Times, 10 Sep. 2021 Jamie Beth Cohen has had great neighbors and awful ones. Laurie Yarnell, Good Housekeeping, 10 Sep. 2021 Stories of patients unable to get into hospitals—stuck in waiting rooms, lingering in ambulances, life-flighted to other states where there might be an open bed—have been an awful constant during this hot-spot summer. Maryn Mckenna, Wired, 10 Sep. 2021 Their bond forged in such awful circumstances remains strong. Diane Herbst, PEOPLE.com, 9 Sep. 2021 Five games into the season, an awful second half in Cleveland helped crystallize what the Colts should be, and the second-half development of Jonathan Taylor allowed Indianapolis to fully realize its vision. Joel A. Erickson, The Indianapolis Star, 8 Sep. 2021 From the internet cloud and your smartphone to the TSA, daily life in the U.S. has changed dramatically since that awful September day in 2001. Rachel Layne, CBS News, 7 Sep. 2021 By the time the coronavirus swept across the country in March 2020, Rick Ross realized the awful sickness that felled him two months earlier after a trip to South Africa was COVID-19. Melissa Ruggieri, USA TODAY, 7 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb First, there is the question whether the awful-looking restraint maneuver Chauvin used was actually authorized at the time, or at least not clearly forbidden. D.j. Tice, Star Tribune, 20 Feb. 2021 The following day, Gonzalez was back at the testing site, helping patients — many of whom had fevers and awful-sounding coughs — fill out their paperwork. Karen Ann Cullotta, chicagotribune.com, 2 Oct. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Adverb

1816, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for awful

Adjective

Middle English aghful, awful "frightful, terrifying, commanding great respect, worthy of reverence," from aw, awe "terror, dread, extreme reverence" + -ful -ful entry 1 — more at awe entry 1

Adverb

derivative of awful entry 1

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Time Traveler for awful

Time Traveler

The first known use of awful was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near awful

awf

awful

AWG

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Last Updated

15 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Awful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/awful. Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.

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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 : awesome

awful

adverb

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

: very or extremely : awfully

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, Diary of a 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on awful

Nglish: Translation of awful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of awful for Arabic Speakers

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