dread·​ful | \ˈdred-fəl \

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 \-​f(ə-​)lē \ adverb
dreadfulness \-​fəl-​nəs \ noun

Examples of dreadful in a Sentence


Her performance was absolutely dreadful. Those children have such dreadful manners.

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The next time the episode references Rebecca is when future Tess and Randall are back in that dreadful hospital, finally revealing that Rebecca is the one in there. Candice Frederick, Harper's BAZAAR, "This Is Us Just Dropped Two Massive Bombshells," 28 Nov. 2018 Almost all of these airports are dreadful on more than one significant dimension. Scott Mccartney, WSJ, "Readers React to the WSJ Airport Rankings," 19 Nov. 2018 Two winters ago, the Hall of Famer agreed to meet with a young pitcher who was coming off a dreadful season for the Yankees. Scott Lauber, Philly.com, "Should the Phillies be concerned about Jake Arrieta? | Extra Innings," 27 June 2018 Recent Form South Korea's recent form has been pretty dreadful in terms of results and performances. SI.com, "World Cup Preview: South Korea vs Germany - Classic Encounter, Team News, Predictions & More," 26 June 2018 This is why, while the Padres have been dreadful for much of Balsley’s time with the team, their pitching staff has been somewhere between superb and good (or at least better than expected) pretty much every year. Kevin Acee, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Padres pitchers positive Darren Balsley is the best," 16 June 2018 Receiving a wedding invitation should be exciting, not dreadful. cleveland.com, "Wedding gifts that mean (but don't cost) a lot," 6 May 2018 Last year, the Lions were dreadful in short-yardage situations. Jeff Seidel, Detroit Free Press, "How this NFL draft could propel Detroit Lions into playoffs," 28 Apr. 2018 In the more dreadful ones, teachers tell me they don’t trust many of their peers with guns, while others worry that the weapons might be grabbed by students or increase the chance of accidents. Stu Bykofsky, Philly.com, "What's so bad about arming teachers? | Stu Bykofsky," 27 Feb. 2018

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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Statistics for dreadful

Last Updated

13 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for dreadful

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

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More Definitions for dreadful



English Language Learners Definition of dreadful

: very bad or unpleasant


dread·​ful | \ˈdred-fəl \

Kids Definition of dreadful

1 : causing fear a dreadful storm

2 : very unpleasant a dreadful cold

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More from Merriam-Webster on dreadful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dreadful

Spanish Central: Translation of dreadful

Nglish: Translation of dreadful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dreadful for Arabic Speakers

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