fright·​ful | \ ˈfrīt-fəl How to pronounce frightful (audio) \

Definition of frightful

1 : causing intense fear or alarm : terrifying
2 : startling especially in being bad or objectionable a frightful novel
3 : extreme frightful thirst

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from frightful

frightfully \ ˈfrīt-​fə-​lē How to pronounce frightfully (audio) \ adverb
frightfulness noun

Examples of frightful in a Sentence

As he fell, he let out a frightful scream. a frightful illness that causes extreme pain The children made a frightful mess of the kitchen. Many critics have expressed shock at the song's frightful lyrics.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web As conditions — meteorological and epidemiological — become frightful, can a live comedy show still sound delightful? New York Times, "5 Things to Do This Weekend," 26 Nov. 2020 Dean Martin was right: The weather outside is, indeed, pretty darn frightful this time of year. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Here's the Full Schedule of Winter TV Shows and Premiere Dates for 2020 and 2021," 13 Nov. 2020 For over the past month, civilians young and old have been awakened day and night by the frightful sights and sounds of rocket attacks, falling bombs, missiles, drones and terrorist attacks. Gary Dinges, USA TODAY, "System of a Down debuts new music for the first time in 15 years, prompted by Armenian unrest," 7 Nov. 2020 As the weather outside grows frightful, the fire doesn’t have to be inside to be delightful. Lindsay Tigar, CNN Underscored, "All the innovative ways you can heat your outdoor space," 2 Nov. 2020 The linebacker won his debut in 2017 at Michigan Stadium as the Spartans weathered a story more frightful than the U-M offense, 14-10. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State football's Antjuan Simmons has a prediction vs. Michigan," 30 Oct. 2020 So what was to be done this year when trick-or-treating was essentially canceled and large in-person gatherings a frightful thought? Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "Bella Hadid, Meryl Streep, & More Attend Bette Midler’s Batty Hocus Pocus Reunion," 31 Oct. 2020 But black widows have earned a frightful reputation for the bright red hourglass on the abdomen for a reason; their neurotoxic venom is 15-times stronger than a rattlesnake’s. Corryn Wetzel, Smithsonian Magazine, "14 Fun Facts About Frightening Animals," 30 Oct. 2020 Grapevine’s Palace Theater has a host of frightful offerings. Linda Kessler, Dallas News, "Make it a spooky movie night this Halloween season," 23 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'frightful.' 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 frightful

1607, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for frightful

fright entry 1 + -ful entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about frightful

Time Traveler for frightful

Time Traveler

The first known use of frightful was in 1607

See more words from the same year

Statistics for frightful

Last Updated

2 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Frightful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for frightful


How to pronounce frightful (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of frightful

somewhat old-fashioned
: causing fear
: very bad or shocking
: very strong


fright·​ful | \ ˈfrīt-fəl How to pronounce frightful (audio) \

Kids Definition of frightful

1 : causing fear or alarm a frightful scream
2 : shocking sense 1, outrageous a frightful mess

Other Words from frightful

frightfully \ -​fə-​lē \ adverb

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on frightful

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!