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 intensivean 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 \ ˈȯ-​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 Indeed, the process forced me to think an awful lot about Israel, the country where I was born but not raised. Ephrat Livni, Quartz at Work, "Would you dare take a talent assessment inspired by the testing methods of the IDF?," 25 Nov. 2019 Johnson underlined this sentiment in the last shot of the movie in which an enslaved kid summons a broom using force powers and casts a shadow that looks an awful lot like a Jedi with a lightsaber. Eliana Dockterman, Time, "The Biggest Questions Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Needs to Answer," 23 Nov. 2019 Dinner may be serious business, but as usual, the Veladors seem to be having an awful lot of fun with it. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "This Scottsdale cafe is famous for its bagels. But its new dinner menu is fabulous, too," 15 Nov. 2019 Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims has said that the county jails hold many dangerous people, and that awful events, including deaths, are almost inevitable. Jason Pohl, ProPublica, "We Investigated the Crisis in California’s Jails. Now, the Governor Calls for More Oversight.," 14 Nov. 2019 The extract that’s been showing up in everything from candy to coffee is legally derived from hemp plants, which look and smell an awful lot like that other cannabis — marijuana. Michael R. Sisak, Anchorage Daily News, "Pot or not? Busts highlight growing confusion over hemp," 10 Nov. 2019 The Glazer family’s right-hand man, Woodward has an awful lot to answer for at United. SI.com, "Ed Woodward Wasn't at Man Utd Loss to Bournemouth - But Who Cares?," 5 Nov. 2019 But unlike Jeremy's character, Bucky has a metal arm, which looks an awful lot like the the forest creature's left arm. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Who Is the Fox on 'The Masked Singer'? Here's What Fans Are Saying," 9 Oct. 2019 There's even a local farm-to-table restaurant owner who sounds an awful lot like Luke. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "People Think Netflix's New Show Ginny & Georgia Will Be the Next Gilmore Girls," 14 Aug. 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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Time Traveler for awful

Time Traveler

The first known use of awful was in the 13th century

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Statistics for awful

Last Updated

30 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Awful.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/awfulness. Accessed 10 December 2019.

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More Definitions for awful

awful

adjective
How to pronounce awful (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for awful

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with awful

Spanish Central: Translation of awful

Nglish: Translation of awful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of awful for Arabic Speakers

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