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


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

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Argentina so far has been dreadful, inhabiting the worst of all worlds. Jonathan Wilson, SI.com, "How Has it Come to This for Argentina?," 22 June 2019 This was dreadful news for Walker, who suddenly stopped talking about Foxconn. Bruce Murphy, The Verge, "Wisconsin’s $4.1 billion Foxconn boondoggle," 29 Oct. 2018 Many successful franchises have suited up dreadful teams in order to rebuild through the draft. Sean Gregory, Time, "The NBA's Philadelphia 76ers Give Us Reason to Put Our Faith in Failure," 13 Apr. 2018 Vonnegut’s prose, even when dealing with the dreadful, whistles a happy tune. Salman Rushdie, The New Yorker, "What Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” Tells Us Now," 13 June 2019 But there's what everyone calls bullying, and there's actual, real, miserable bullying where someone had a dreadful time. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Kate Middleton Was "Desperately Unhappy" and Tortured by Bullies at Her First Secondary School, Downe House," 10 Mar. 2019 Even if you're not coupled up on Valentine's Day, February 14th doesn't have to be dreadful. Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "Kate Beckinsale's Kitchen Is The Perfect Place For A Valentine's Day Party," 28 Jan. 2019 Recent Form Saudi Arabia come into the clash on a dreadful run of form. SI.com, "World Cup Preview: Saudi Arabia vs Egypt - Classic Encounter, Team News, Predictions & More," 24 June 2018 Based on Sinclair's first-hand reporting of the dreadful conditions at meat-packing plants, the details in the manuscript were so shocking that his initial publisher, MacMillan, refused to publish it and dumped him as a client. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "We have food safety laws thanks to 19th century “poison squad”," 26 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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Statistics for dreadful

Last Updated

12 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 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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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).


to form ideas or theories about something

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