ghast·​ly | \ ˈgast-lē How to pronounce ghastly (audio) \
ghastlier; ghastliest

Definition of ghastly

1a : terrifyingly horrible to the senses : frightening a ghastly crime
b : intensely unpleasant, disagreeable, or objectionable such a life seems ghastly in its emptiness and sterility— Aldous Huxley
2 : resembling a ghost
3 obsolete : filled with fear
4 : very great a ghastly mistake

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Other Words from ghastly

ghastliness noun
ghastly adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for ghastly

ghastly, grisly, gruesome, macabre, lurid mean horrifying and repellent in appearance or aspect. ghastly suggests the terrifying aspects of corpses and ghosts. a ghastly accident grisly and gruesome suggest additionally the results of extreme violence or cruelty. an unusually grisly murder suffered a gruesome death macabre implies a morbid preoccupation with the physical aspects of death. a macabre tale of premature burial lurid adds to gruesome the suggestion of shuddering fascination with violent death and especially with murder. the lurid details of a crime

Examples of ghastly in a Sentence

You're making a ghastly mistake. His room was a ghastly mess.
Recent Examples on the Web The Bulldogs stagger into Jacksonville coming off a ghastly overtime loss at home to South Carolina and perhaps an even more brutal-to-watch 21-0 win over Kentucky in monsoon conditions. USA TODAY, "Bold predictions for Week 10 in college football," 2 Nov. 2019 But rather than presenting his poem as a mournful lament, Lydgate goes on to extract broader moral ammunition from this supposedly ghastly situation. Jack Hartnell, Time, "The Medieval History Behind Our Halloween Fascination With Skeletons," 30 Oct. 2019 The Celtics entered the season with lower expectations, especially with their ghastly playoff performance last season., "What helped the Celtics win, 112-106, Friday against the Toronto Raptors is they have spent the past several months convincing themselves how difficult games like these are to win.," 26 Oct. 2019 In Pullman’s fiction, Lyra’s choice is to travel, to investigate, to think freely—or to have her spirit be mangled by the ghastly devices of the Magisterium. James Parker, The Atlantic, "Can Atheism Inspire Great Fantasy?," 15 Oct. 2019 Adherents of these ideas hold that reading the Bible literally – particularly the Book of Revelation – reveals that history will end soon with a ghastly apocalypse. William Trollinger, The Conversation, "Fundamentalism turns 100, a landmark for the Christian Right," 8 Oct. 2019 Another lesson parasites can teach us comes from a ghastly parasitic example where wasps chemically groom cockroaches to be their victims. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "Inside the Forever War Against Parasites Trying To Control Our Brains," 23 Sep. 2019 And there's a timeless quality, too, because, well, ghastly kids are always ghastly. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "The 50 best horror movies of the 21st century, definitively ranked," 6 Sep. 2019 Foley had not, but the ghastly images weren’t hard to find. Eric Tucker,, "Journalist’s death leads to reshaping of US handling of hostages," 5 Aug. 2019

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for ghastly

Middle English gastly, from gasten to terrify — more at gast

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Time Traveler for ghastly

Time Traveler

The first known use of ghastly was in the 14th century

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Statistics for ghastly

Last Updated

19 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Ghastly.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 6 December 2019.

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More Definitions for ghastly


How to pronounce ghastly (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ghastly

: very shocking or horrible
: very bad


ghast·​ly | \ ˈgast-lē How to pronounce ghastly (audio) \
ghastlier; ghastliest

Kids Definition of ghastly

1 : very shocking or horrible a ghastly crime a ghastly mistake
2 : like a ghost : pale a ghastly face

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More from Merriam-Webster on ghastly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ghastly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ghastly

Spanish Central: Translation of ghastly

Nglish: Translation of ghastly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ghastly for Arabic Speakers

Comments on ghastly

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


very cautious or careful

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