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 Malone's miserable night climaxed with a dreadful, scoreless fourth quarter. oregonlive, "Trail Blazers Classics: Portland beats Utah Jazz in Game 6 of 1999 Western Conference semifinals to ‘shock the world’," 30 Apr. 2020 But except for Murray, who is on a dreadful, losing team (Arizona Cardinals), does anyone in that group compel fans to tune into their games just to see what will happen when the football is in their hands? Bill Pennington, New York Times, "The N.F.L. is a quarterback’s league and one conference has the edge in exciting young stars.," 25 Apr. 2020 The Patriots have been dreadful on offense all season, and have wracked up 12 wins thanks to their defense and an incredibly soft schedule. BostonGlobe.com, "FOXBOROUGH – Instant Analysis from the Patriots’ 27-24 loss to the Dolphins:," 31 Dec. 2019 All agree that 2020 will be dreadful, but some expect recovery to take longer than others, making for a much grimmer year. The Economist, "Doom and gloom Economists’ forecasts for GDP growth in 2020 vary widely," 4 Apr. 2020 America’s testing rollout has been notably dreadful, compounded by the fact the tests and subsequent treatment are affordable only to those with insurance or wealth. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "A Better World Is Possible Without a Pandemic," 12 Mar. 2020 Is that enough to silence the howls of those who claim Dallas has suffered through a dreadful offseason? Calvin Watkins, Dallas News, "Cowboys roundtable: What position should Dallas address with the 17th pick in the NFL draft?," 31 Mar. 2020 The Daly family wants to send a special shout out to the incredibly brave & selfless medical staff at our hospital in New York and also the many courageous people on the front lines of this dreadful virus. Marianne Garvey, CNN, "Carson Daly and wife Siri welcome baby No. 4 amid coronavirus outbreak," 27 Mar. 2020 This is dreadful news for the tens of thousands of high school athletes who tear their ACL each year. Luis Fernando Llosa, USA TODAY, "Focus on injury prevention, wellness earns top mark for Bound Brook High girls basketball," 23 Mar. 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

30 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dreadful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dreadful. Accessed 2 Jun. 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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