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

While every loss is different and there are no lines of dialogue that will apply to everyone, suicide bereavement counselors do have some recommendations for what to say in this awful circumstance—and what not to say too. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "7 Things to Say When a Friend’s Loved One Dies by Suicide (and 3 to Avoid)," 5 Feb. 2019 To act as though these women have casually chosen to abort that child on a whim is an unforgivable insult to every woman who has had to make that awful choice. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Anti-Abortion Activists Are Still Defending Forced Birth with Debunked Science," 26 Jan. 2019 Oh, and there’s that awful Sonic the Hedgehog movie poster as well. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "This week in games: Heroes of the Storm winds down, Monster Hunter adds The Witcher's Geralt," 14 Dec. 2018 Losing $20 feels more awful than winning $20 feels great. Neil Irwin, New York Times, "Two Words That Could Shape the Politics of the Trade War: Loss Aversion," 13 July 2018 Any offer of these will lead to him doing more malicious and awful things around the world. Bill Browder, Time, "I've Been Putin's Number One Foreign Enemy for a Decade. Here's What Trump Should Know About Handling Him," 12 July 2018 All that aside, the below video of Terry singing sounds an awful lot like the Deer: Who Is the Poodle on The Masked Singer? Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Get All 'The Masked Singer' Spoilers You Could Ever Want," 10 Jan. 2019 In it, a Yale freshman from Vermont spends Thanksgiving break in New York City, where something awful ensues. Jesse Green, New York Times, "Review: Mary-Louise Parker, Resounding in ‘The Sound Inside’," 3 July 2018 But if something awful happens, if the sky-high stakes pay off, this show will be legend. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "Is The Americans a Good Show, or a Great One? The Next 2 Weeks Will Settle the Question," 18 May 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

9 Feb 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 \

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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