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 frightful (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 The score, by his friend Gerald Fried, intersperses snippets of Johann Strauss’s bright but tense Künstlerleben waltz with frightful silences and the hiss and thump of snare and bass drums. Andrew Delbanco, The New York Review of Books, "Kubrick’s Human Comedy," 27 Apr. 2021 Her work also left her inundated with calls and letters from people recounting their frightful experiences, real and imagined. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Conspiracies run amok. (Did you hear the one about Joan Rivers, Michelle Obama and the Clintons?)," 2 Apr. 2021 Most certainly, a detriment was to be expected, but the skincare industry remained standing and continued to prosper at a time of frightful uncertainty. Joseph Deacetis, Forbes, "Understanding Skincare That Will Make Your Feel Good Inside And Out.," 1 Mar. 2021 Was that first Toastmasters meeting a frightful experience? Linda Gandee, cleveland, "Westlake resident wins two Toastmasters contests," 4 Jan. 2021 Not to mention, this exposure of wildlife to human populations is quite frightful. Lavanya Sunkara, Forbes, "In Conversation With Dr. Gabby Wild, World Traveling Vet Saving Animal Lives," 5 Mar. 2021 But when her case took a sudden and frightful turn, caregivers, thinking death was near, let Don sit at her bedside. Star Tribune, "A duty to mend regret and heartbreak," 7 Feb. 2021 Despite the frightful weather, the Utah Highway Patrol hadn’t seen many crashes. Sara Tabin, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Weather warnings are in place this weekend, but number of crashes hasn’t been high," 13 Feb. 2021 Other properties aim to appeal to travelers by promoting safe indoor activities when the weather outside is frightful. Washington Post, "Why some seasonal hotels across the U.S. are staying open year-round," 14 Jan. 2021

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

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Frightful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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 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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