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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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 During the 2000 season David Cone went to the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa to work with Connors during a dreadful stretch. Richard Sandomir, New York Times, "Billy Connors, Yankee Pitching Guru, Is Dead at 76," 21 June 2018 That performance has been a big part of Arizona’s ability to recover nicely from a truly dreadful stretch last month and maintain a grip on first place in the NL West. Emma Baccellieri, SI.com, "Power Rankings: There's No Touching the Yankees and the Red Sox Right Now," 11 June 2018 Despite the Cavs' dreadful stretch, ranking as the league's worst defense in the three games since Isaiah Thomas -- who was supposed to lift the team to new heights -- in the starting lineup, the Cavs don't seem too concerned. Chris Fedor, cleveland.com, "Cleveland Cavaliers still deserve benefit of the doubt, but look more vulnerable than past seasons," 12 Jan. 2018 Trump made the comment Wednesday at a conference call with state and federal leaders meant to lay out how to prepare for another dreadful hurricane season. Andrea Zelinski, Houston Chronicle, "Trump claims Texans were on boats watching Harvey," 6 June 2018 The arrow is pointing down for Bob Davie and the Lobos after a dreadful 2017 season. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "College football's post-spring outlook: Favorite, dark horse, also-ran for each conference," 3 May 2018 The impulse is as noble as the execution is dreadful. Jason Kehe, WIRED, "Sci-Fi Invades Netflix—as They Both Invade Your Home," 9 July 2018 The Kings' offense was dreadful at times last season, failing to score consistently or find easy shots. Jason Jones, sacbee, "Five things to watch for from the Kings as NBA summer league play tips off," 1 July 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about dreadful

Dictionary Entries near dreadful








Statistics for dreadful

Last Updated

4 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dreadful

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on dreadful

What made you want to look up dreadful? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a state of commotion or excitement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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