fright·​ful | \ ˈfrīt-fəl \

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

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Other Words from frightful

frightfully \ ˈfrīt-​fə-​lē \ 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

By anchoring it in real life, at least until that final scene, the movie’s costumes make the dizzying nightmares all the more intense and frightful. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "Suspira’s Costume Designer on Making Dresses Out of Hair and Redefining ’70s Style as Something Chicly Horrifying," 23 Oct. 2018 The result was anything but frightful; rather, the tale became a nuanced look at the process of boys coming of age. Alexandra Gekas, Woman's Day, "12 Best Movies Based on Books," 2 Aug. 2010 By next Christmas, the weather outside could be even more frightful. Nathaniel Taplin, WSJ, "Commodity Woes Run Deeper Than China," 28 Nov. 2018 Implying that disability is scary or should be frightful to people, others reminded, is offensive. Brittney Mcnamara, Teen Vogue, "Why It's Not OK to Dress Up as Someone With a Disability for Halloween," 15 Oct. 2018 In Act Two, tensions continue to rise and reach their frightful climax at zero hour detonation. Paul Ross, Popular Mechanics, "I Am Become Opera: An Atomic Show In the Shadow of Los Alamos," 27 July 2018 Yet despite decades of unwanted attention and articles depicting eating alone as some frightful activity, women have long cherished a solitary meal. Dana Snitzky, Longreads, "Eating Alone," 6 July 2018 Brazil took Mexico on the pitch, and after a frightful battle, Brazil took the win 2-0. Kat Bein, Billboard, "DJ Snake, Deorro & More React to Brazil's World Cup Win Over Mexico," 2 July 2018 Yet despite unwanted attention and decades of articles depicting eating alone as some frightful activity, women have long cherished a solitary meal. Stephanie Rosenbloom, New York Times, "On Eating Alone in Paris," 30 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of frightful

1607, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for frightful

fright entry 1 + -ful entry 1

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Statistics for frightful

Last Updated

4 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for frightful

The first known use of frightful was in 1607

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More Definitions for frightful



English Language Learners Definition of frightful

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


fright·​ful | \ ˈfrīt-fəl \

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

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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).


to deny responsibility for

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