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 dreadfully (audio) \ adverb
dreadfulness \ ˈdred-​fəl-​nəs How to pronounce dreadfulness (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 By any standard, U of L’s 2018 season was historically dreadful, a long series of bewildering blowouts marked by defensive ineptitude and offensive inconsistency. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "After amazing turnaround, Louisville football shows coaching moves were money well spent," 31 Dec. 2019 This is the best time of the year to travel to tropical destinations, as flights from January to March are usually cheaper, and the weather outside is dreadful, which means a beach vacation is calling! Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Planning a Winter Getaway? Shop the Chicest Beach Staples on Sale Now," 16 Dec. 2019 Of course, Olaf wouldn't be so dreadful all by himself. Deborah Wilker, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Frozen': Theater Review," 8 Dec. 2019 Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell, one of the few bright spots in this young and dreadful season, left Friday night’s game against Boston with 5:33 left in the third quarter. Ron Kroichick, SFChronicle.com, "Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell leaves Celtics game with thumb injury," 15 Nov. 2019 Their rotation was dreadful and the bullpen needs help. BostonGlobe.com, "AL East," 9 Nov. 2019 The day suddenly didn’t feel so long, overwhelming or dreadful. Andrea Barber, Time, "I Thought My Kids Were Too Old for Me to Have Postpartum Depression. But I Couldn't Deny the Awful Reality," 6 Nov. 2019 Or is because Rutgers has been dreadful in conference play, losing to Big Ten schools by a combined margin of 207-14? Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press, "Big Ten football predictions: Michigan, Illinois expected to continue surges," 31 Oct. 2019 This sounds dreadful but actually shouldn’t be too uncomfortable physically, at the very least. Korin Miller, SELF, "What Does It Mean to Have a Diminished Ovarian Reserve?," 17 Nov. 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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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

11 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dreadful.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dreadful. Accessed 21 January 2020.

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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

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


good-natured easy friendliness

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