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

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 Or to the relentless drumbeat of frightful medical updates as older brother, Nick, faced down a brain tumor. Bryce Miller,, "Aztecs' Casey at the bat — and mound — living remarkable baseball life," 30 May 2018 However, there were reportedly some frightful moments for Princess Diana when the boys convinced her to go white water rafting. Brie Schwartz, Redbook, "Princess Diana and Her Boys Considered Kurt Russell's Home a Sanctuary," 19 Jan. 2016 When the weather outside is frightful, and the fire is so delightful, there's no better way to spend the evening than snuggled up on the couch. Staff, Woman's Day, "20 Perfectly Paired Christmas Movie and Dinner Combos," 12 Dec. 2017 The Cavs could still swing momentum in this suddenly frightful first-round series against the Pacers with a single win in Game 4 in Indy. Bud Shaw,, "If the Cavs' casting call for a co-star goes unanswered, the end is near -- Bud Shaw," 21 Apr. 2018 Is this frightful complexity prompting you to consider renouncing your U.S. citizenship? Laura Saunders, WSJ, "Look Out, Meghan Markle! The IRS Is Watching," 13 Apr. 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

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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

: 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).


a private place of worship

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