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 Associated Press BERLIN — Joseph Vilsmaier, a German filmmaker whose striking portrayal of the Battle of Stalingrad brought home the horrors of war to a new generation, has died. USA TODAY, "'Stalingrad' director Joseph Vilsmaier dead at 81," 12 Feb. 2020 Even as Wittes is diminishing the horrors of the Holocaust for political gain with his bumbling analogies, a bunch of high-profile Americans were speaking out about Trump actions. David Harsanyi, National Review, "Being Fired by Trump Does Not Make You a Holocaust Victim," 10 Feb. 2020 Now as American citizens and legal permanent residents, many of us are confronted with the horror of family separation. Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu, STAT, "As medical professionals, my husband and I know the Nigerian travel ban is cruel. Now the pain is personal," 7 Feb. 2020 We are spared the faux horror of Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, who chided Congress for its abdication of responsibility but didn’t want to hear the former national-security adviser John Bolton testify under oath about grave wrongdoing by the President. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, "The Wrenching Truth About Mitt Romney’s Vote Is That It Doesn’t Matter," 6 Feb. 2020 Lesser witnessed the horrors of a place that became known as the factory of death. Joanna Berendt, BostonGlobe.com, "At Auschwitz, survivors plead ‘never forget’," 27 Jan. 2020 Prince Charles, meanwhile, spoke about the horrors of the Holocaust in a speech at the forum. Anika Reed, Indianapolis Star, "Prince Charles didn't snub Mike Pence at World Holocaust Forum, vice president's team says," 23 Jan. 2020 Seventy-five years ago, the world first saw the horrors of Nazi concentration camps. Paul Morrow, The Conversation, "Is it ethical to show Holocaust images?," 21 Jan. 2020 And everyone remembers the horrors of the Taliban blowing up ancient Buddhas in Afghanistan just before 9/11, and ISIS' destruction of the ancient Palmyra castle and other significant historical sites in Syria and Iraq. CNN, "The US spent trillions trying to remake the Middle East. Trump's strike may have undone it all," 6 Jan. 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

15 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Horror.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/horror. Accessed 26 Feb. 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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