dread·​ful | \ ˈdred-fəl How to pronounce dreadful (audio) \

Definition of dreadful

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : inspiring dread (see dread entry 2 sense 1a) : causing great and oppressive fear a dreadful attack
b : inspiring awe or reverence
2 : extremely bad, distasteful, unpleasant, or shocking a dreadful idea a dreadful performance dreadful behavior The food was absolutely dreadful.
3 : extreme dreadful disorder



Definition of dreadful (Entry 2 of 2)

: a cheap and sensational (see sensational sense 2) story or periodical

Other Words from dreadful


dreadfully \ ˈdred-​f(ə-​)lē How to pronounce dreadful (audio) \ adverb
dreadfulness \ ˈdred-​fəl-​nəs How to pronounce dreadful (audio) \ noun

Examples of dreadful in a Sentence

Adjective Her performance was absolutely dreadful. Those children have such dreadful manners.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective That doesn’t guarantee anything, quality-wise; shows aiming for a lighter touch can be just as dreadful as anything else. Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune, 16 May 2022 An absolutely dreadful third season (48 catches on 96 targets for 680 yards in 2017) and a big contract demand greased the wheels for a trade to Dallas six games into the 2018 season. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, 8 May 2022 But covering this particular team in this particular year presents a unique challenge that, in its way, is every bit as dreadful as picking up highway trash while wearing an orange jumpsuit. Paul Daugherty, The Enquirer, 5 May 2022 The thought that the Orioles could spend the next couple of months with none of those arms taking the mound for them is a dreadful one. Nathan Ruiz, Baltimore Sun, 14 Apr. 2022 And even for the small-screen devout, a 10-part adaptation of Mario Puzo’s bestselling book is almost too dreadful to contemplate. Los Angeles Times, 29 Apr. 2022 In this dreadful conflict, which followed four years of war, millions of people died, among them tens of thousands of Jews. Timothy Snyder, The New Yorker, 28 Apr. 2022 Williams barely played at all until last October and had a dreadful November before rebounding in Oklahoma's bowl win against Oregon. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, 25 Apr. 2022 Running away from a dreadful unfulfilling job is a quick way to end up in another one. Adunola Adeshola, Forbes, 21 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Like many people who live in the suburbs, there’s no burning desire to get back on a bus or train and waste two to three hours going back and forth in a dreadful, soul-sucking commute to the city every day. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 13 Apr. 2022 The comical bumps up against the chaotic, the domestic beats back the dreadful. Los Angeles Times, 23 Mar. 2022 But the Blazers minus Anfernee Simons in the lineup are next-level dreadful. oregonlive, 7 Mar. 2022 For many people who live in the suburbs, there’s no burning desire to get back on a bus or train and waste two to three hours going back and forth in a dreadful, soul-sucking commute to the city each and every day. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 22 May 2021 The Rangers just completed their fourth consecutive losing season and packed a whole lot of dreadful into just 60 games. Evan Grant, Dallas News, 30 Sep. 2020 Only blue shells in Mario Kart games produce more pained utterances of swear words amongst users of interactive software than that dreadful, infuriating wiggle mode. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, 28 Sep. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dreadful.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of dreadful


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1873, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for dreadful


see dread entry 1


see dread entry 1

Learn More About dreadful

Time Traveler for dreadful

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near dreadful




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for dreadful

Last Updated

19 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Dreadful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dreadful. Accessed 20 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for dreadful


dread·​ful | \ ˈdred-fəl How to pronounce dreadful (audio) \

Kids Definition of dreadful

1 : causing fear a dreadful storm
2 : very unpleasant a dreadful cold

More from Merriam-Webster on dreadful

Nglish: Translation of dreadful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dreadful for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!