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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web When Piranesi is asked to help another house guest with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge, dangerous and frightful truths are uncovered, revealing a world beyond Piranesi’s comfort zone. Kami Phillips, CNN Underscored, "All the new books you’ll want to read in September," 10 Sep. 2020 Then came a frightful noise in Thursday’s predawn dark. Sig Christenson,, "People in small Louisiana town had seen other storms — but none like Laura," 27 Aug. 2020 Seimetz dramatically folds Craig’s frightful and fateful outburst into the over-all range of emotional distortions—involving narrow social norms and the exclusionary rules and habits that sustain them—that are at the root of the apocalyptic disease. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "“She Dies Tomorrow,” Reviewed: An Apocalyptic Drama of Emotional Crises," 7 Aug. 2020 More than 30,000 people have died so far—the seventh highest rate in the world—and there have been some frightful upticks of infection as holiday-goers head to the beach. Christine Spolar, National Geographic, "A surge in coronavirus cases jolts France after a quiet summer," 29 July 2020 As the potential dimensions of the disaster took shape — millions sick, global lockdowns, a scorched-earth economy — the public looked to the tracker to make sense of a frightful ordeal. Washington Post, "Millions track the pandemic on Johns Hopkins’s dashboard. Those who built i...," 13 Apr. 2020 With the sweltering summer heat that often accompanies July, the weather can sometimes feel pretty frightful. Duard Headley, The Enquirer, "Get your child's 'mid-term naughty/nice evaluation' at Christmas in July event," 27 June 2020 The virus has taken a frightful toll on older people in the U.S., which leads the world in total deaths, at over 120,000, and confirmed infections, at more than 2.3 million. Carla K. Johnson, Tamara Lush, Anchorage Daily News, "Virus cases surge among younger Americans, endangering them and older adults they come into contact with," 25 June 2020 The nightmare that never ends continued in its most fitful, frightful fashion yet Wednesday at the October house of horrors known as Dodger Stadium surrounded by the postseason demons that have inhabited Clayton Kershaw and Dave Roberts. Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Dodgers’ collapse against Nationals extends their October nightmare," 10 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for frightful

Time Traveler

The first known use of frightful was in 1607

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Statistics for frightful

Last Updated

21 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Frightful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

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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

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Comments on frightful

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