hor·​ror | \ ˈhȯr-ər How to pronounce horror (audio) , ˈhär- \

Definition of horror

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me— H. G. Wells
b : intense aversion or repugnance
2a : the quality of inspiring horror : repulsive, horrible, or dismal quality or character contemplating the horror of their lives— Liam O'Flaherty
b : something that inspires horror
3 horrors plural : a state of extreme depression or apprehension



Definition of horror (Entry 2 of 2)

: calculated to inspire feelings of dread or horror a horror movie

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Examples of horror in a Sentence

Noun There was a look of horror on her face. The crowd watched in horror as the fire spread. His friends were shocked by the horror of his death. His crimes were unspeakable horrors. His memoirs recount the horrors of the war.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun When a job applicant shows up unexpectedly, Chad takes it upon himself to teach the newbie the rules of horror movies. Kathy Passero, cleveland, "How to watch the horror-comedy anthology ‘Scare Package’ on Shudder," 18 June 2020 But even from Chicago, Mays watched in horror on Facebook Live as Reed was pursued and shot. Amelia Pak-harvey, The Indianapolis Star, "'Today is a celebration of life': Family, friends remember Dreasjon Reed and McHale Rose," 14 June 2020 The monument fell directly on his head as bystanders looked on with horror. Spencer Neale, Washington Examiner, "'His skull was actually showing': Protester injured during toppling of Confederate monument," 11 June 2020 Epidemiologists, meanwhile, watched that interpretation spread with horror. Gregory Barber, Wired, "What's Confusing About Calling Covid-19 Cases ‘Asymptomatic’," 11 June 2020 The horror film in which Trump sees a conspiracy theory being peddled by one of his favorite right-wing outlets and then tweets it out without a care in the world about the potential consequences of his words? Brian Stelter, CNN, "Conservative media is living in the past as unrest subsides across the US," 10 June 2020 Kevin Bacon isn't famous for appearing in horror movies, but the actor sure has racked up an impressive list of genre credits, including the original Friday the 13th, Tremors, Flatliners, and Hollow Man. Clark Collis, EW.com, "Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried are haunted in first trailer for You Should Have Left," 8 June 2020 Should Have Left, a forthcoming psychological horror film from Universal, co-produced by Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Kevin Bacon is a writer with a dark secret in You Should Have Left trailer," 8 June 2020 Her brand of horror is instead focused on the darkness lurking underneath the mundane. Anne Cohen, refinery29.com, "Shirley Isn’t A Biopic — It’s A Horror Story More Terrifying Than Haunting Of Hill House," 8 June 2020

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


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


1936, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for horror


Middle English orrour, horrour, borrowed from Anglo-French horrour, horrur, borrowed from Latin horrōr-, horror "standing stiffly, bristling (of hair), shivering (from cold or fear), dread, consternation," derivative with the abstract noun suffix -ōr- (going back to *-ōs-) from the base of horrēre "to be stiffly erect, bristle (of hair, weapons, plants), shudder, shiver," going back to Indo-European *ǵhors-éi̯e-, iterative derivative of a stem *ǵhers- "bristle, become stiff," whence also Sanskrit hṛṣyati "(it) stands on end (of hair, from fear or joy), (s/he) rejoices"

Note: According to Lexikon der indogermanischen Verben (2. Auflage, Wiesbaden, 2001) this base has fallen together with another base, *g(w)hers- "rejoice," in Vedic, and the outcomes are no longer completely distinguishable; the Lexikon attributes to the latter base Vedic hárṣate "rejoices, is excited," ghṛ́ṣuḥ, ghṛ́ṣvih "lively, wanton," as well as Parthian gš- "be cheerful," Sogdian w-γš- "rejoice." Michiel de Vaan (Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages, Brill, 2008) posits a single base and assumes for ghṛ́ṣuḥ, ghṛ́ṣvih loss of palatal quality in zero grade. Earlier etymological dictionaries, as Pokorny, connect with *ǵhers- and an unextended form *ǵher- a wide variety of nominal forms (cf. gorse, orgeat, hirsute, urchin).


from attributive use of horror entry 1

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Time Traveler for horror

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for horror

Last Updated

22 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Horror.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/horror. Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for horror


How to pronounce horror (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of horror

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a very strong feeling of fear, dread, and shock
: the quality of something that causes feelings of fear, dread, and shock : the horrible or shocking quality or character of something
: something that causes feelings of fear, dread, and shock : something that is shocking and horrible



English Language Learners Definition of horror (Entry 2 of 2)

: intended to cause feelings of fear or horror


hor·​ror | \ ˈhȯr-ər How to pronounce horror (audio) \

Kids Definition of horror

1 : great fear, dread, or shock All the children stared in horror at Pippi, and the teacher explained that one couldn't answer that way at school.— Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking
2 : a quality or thing that causes horror They witnessed the horror of war.


hor·​ror | \ ˈhȯr-ər, ˈhär- How to pronounce horror (audio) \

Medical Definition of horror

: painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay

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More from Merriam-Webster on horror

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for horror

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with horror

Spanish Central: Translation of horror

Nglish: Translation of horror for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of horror for Arabic Speakers

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