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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Like the monster in the original 1987 sci-fi action horror film, DiLiegro’s Predator is a writhing, heat-seeking extraterrestrial with superhuman strength and the ability to disappear into its surroundings. Los Angeles Times, 5 Aug. 2022 His past films include Berberian Sound Studio, which followed a repressed sound designer working on an Italian horror film, and The Duke of Burgundy, which essayed the sado-masochistic relationship between two lepidopterists. David Sims, The Atlantic, 3 Aug. 2022 Ryan Kwanten stars in the horror film as a hungover traveler trapped in a restroom with Simmons' deity. Clark Collis, EW.com, 2 Aug. 2022 The Lovecraftian horror film also screened at Spain’s premier fantastic film festival, Sitges. Anna Marie De La Fuente, Variety, 1 Aug. 2022 The horror film stars Zach Villa as Will, a gay potter who keeps the darkness of his childhood secret from his loving boyfriend. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 28 July 2022 Earlier this month, Kendra Walden posted a series of photographs to her Facebook page that showed someone dressed up like a Chucky doll from the 1988 horror film Child's Play walking around an Alabama neighborhood. Jason Duaine Hahn, PEOPLE.com, 26 July 2022 The horror film was a phenomenon, critically and commercially. Frank Pallotta, CNN, 22 July 2022 Daniel Kaluuya and Jordan Peele have once again reunited — not just for the upcoming horror film Nope, but in conversation for the July digital cover of ESSENCE. Brande Victorian, Essence, 11 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective From the creators of Dark, an intriguing period mystery/horror German series called 1899. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 6 June 2022 Mórbido describes itself as a communications platform, a generator of own, independent and commercial content, all related to the fantastic and horror genre in pop-culture, technology and entertainment. John Hopewell, Variety, 22 May 2022 The Vigil is a much better horror picture and is currently on Hulu), offering at least something amid a gun-shy industry qualifies as an act of charity. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 14 May 2022 The new film and series projects span a wide array of genres, ranging from thrillers, action, dramas, comedies and romances to supernatural and horror titles for a YA audience, as well as biographies, true-crime and investigative docudramas. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, 28 Apr. 2022 The box office recovery is still being driven largely by young people, particularly young men, which doesn’t inspire much confidence that non-superhero, non-horror and non-video game action franchises will do much business in cinemas anytime soon. Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 2022 To understand how crucial the flexibility of audio in Dead by Daylight is, consider how horror films use sound in a linear format. Nina Corcoran, Wired, 30 Oct. 2021 Candyman from Nia DaCosta and Last Night in Soho from Edgar Wright will test the waters of audiences’ eagerness to pay to see specifically horror films on the big screen. Eliana Dockterman, Time, 28 June 2021 As a breezy, 100-minute collection of puzzles and jump scares, the first film was a surprise hit, the kind of low-stakes entertainment even non–horror fans can enjoy. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, 5 June 2021 See More

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.

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-Europeanhors-éi̯e-, iterative derivative of a stem hers- "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 hers- and an unextended form her- a wide variety of nominal forms (cf. gorse, orgeat, hirsute, urchin).


from attributive use of horror entry 1

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

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Last Updated

10 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Horror.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/horror. Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for 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

More from Merriam-Webster on horror

Nglish: Translation of horror for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of horror for Arabic Speakers


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