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

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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 The man most responsible for the dreadful condition of Illinois politics and the state’s finance has finally suffered a tentative defeat. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Boss Madigan Teeters in Illinois," 11 Jan. 2021 Or are the Pelicans about to careen into a familiar skid, following the path of last year’s dreadful 13-game losing streak that ultimately buried the season? Scott Kushner, NOLA.com, "Kushner: Pelicans at crossroads heading into 7-game road trip," 10 Jan. 2021 By almost every standard, the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings were dreadful. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, "Here's what the Detroit Red Wings can learn from four decades of NHL's worst teams," 5 Jan. 2021 Sometimes, the very idea of doing cardio can be dreadful. Hannah Dylan Pasternak, SELF, "A Full Body Circuit Workout to Help You Shake Off the Day," 30 Dec. 2020 Still, other scientists believe that Britain overshot the available evidence, potentially leaving older people and health-care workers without the full protection of two vaccine doses amid dreadful wintertime surges. Benjamin Mueller, New York Times, "U.K. Approves Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine, and Tightens Lockdown," 30 Dec. 2020 Longfellow had lost his wife, Fanny, in a dreadful accident in July, 1861. David French, Time, "A Christmas Hymn for Our Troubled Time," 24 Dec. 2020 Browns fans are well aware of the dreadful quarterbacks-to-starts ratio of recent years. Scott Patsko, cleveland, "Baker Mayfield ascends, keeps Browns pointed in right direction: Quick Thoughts," 20 Dec. 2020 Following Aranda's departure, the reigning national champions gave Pelini a massive contract to take over their defense, but the results have been dreadful. Steve Berkowitz, USA TODAY, "Alabama, Auburn coaches among highest-paid assistants in college football," 15 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Rangers just completed their fourth consecutive losing season and packed a whole lot of dreadful into just 60 games. Evan Grant, Dallas News, "Rangers ownership not looking to make ‘easy’ call. That’s why Jon Daniels won’t be going anywhere anytime soon," 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, "iOS and iPadOS 14 review: iPhone transformation, iPad iteration," 28 Sep. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for dreadful

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for dreadful

Last Updated

19 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dreadful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dreadful. Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for dreadful


How to pronounce dreadful (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of dreadful

: very bad or unpleasant


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

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Comments on dreadful

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