ter·​ri·​ble | \ ˈter-ə-bəl How to pronounce terrible (audio) , ˈte-rə-\

Definition of terrible

1 : extremely bad: such as
a : notably unattractive or objectionable terrible behavior
b : of very poor quality a terrible movie
c : strongly repulsive : obnoxious a terrible smell
2a : difficult in a terrible bind
b : formidable in nature : awesome a terrible responsibility
c : exciting extreme alarm or intense fear : terrifying
3 : extreme, great a terrible disappointment

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from terrible

terribleness noun
terribly \ ˈter-​ə-​blē How to pronounce terribly (audio) , ˈte-​rə-​ \ adverb

Examples of terrible in a Sentence

Traffic was held up by a terrible accident. I have a terrible cold. The service at that restaurant is terrible.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

But the perpetrator in that case was caught and jailed, which suggests either a terrible miscarriage of justice has occurred or a creepy copycat is at work. Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter, "'I See You': Film Review | Edinburgh 2019," 8 July 2019 The business got off to a terrible start in 2019, however, with news that 7digital had lost a major contract with electronics giant MediaMarktSaturn, owners of German music service Juke, to which 7digital provided backend operational support. Richard Smirke, Billboard, "7digital Grows Annual Revenues But Still Needs $5.5 Million Investment to Survive," 8 July 2019 The family suffered terrible, violent deaths with bayonets and bullets — especially the four daughters. Elena Nicolaou, refinery29.com, "The Dramatic True Story Of Russia's Last Dynasty, The Romanovs," 5 July 2019 These bills would have brought greater fairness to a terrible system. Dallas News, "This is how Texas lawmakers avoided true property tax reform and instead gave us fluff and stuff," 5 July 2019 Tributes quickly rolled in from players, fans, media members, and teams, with everyone being so stunned and saddened by this terrible news. Andy Nesbitt, For The Win, "Mike Trout shares heartbreaking statement on the death of Tyler Skaggs: 'We love you, 45'," 1 July 2019 Of course, the change is obvious when looking at Star Trek's latest show, Discovery, where gratuitous violence (and terrible writing) is commonplace. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "An R-Rating Is the Last Thing Star Trek Needs Right Now," 12 June 2019 But name aside, Marino was arguably the funniest part of The Other Two as a dedicated yet terrible music manager who just so happens to consider his 13-year-old client to be a father figure to him. Ew Staff, EW.com, "Emmys 2019: EW picks the dark-horse contenders who deserve nominations," 12 July 2019 The new boss of the central bank is Murat Uysal, Mr Cetinkaya’s deputy—who is off to a terrible start. The Economist, "Recep Tayyip Erdogan sacks the head of Turkey’s central bank," 11 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'terrible.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of terrible

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2c

History and Etymology for terrible

Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin terribilis, from terrēre to frighten — more at terror

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about terrible

Statistics for terrible

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for terrible

The first known use of terrible was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for terrible



English Language Learners Definition of terrible

: very shocking and upsetting
: very bad or unpleasant


ter·​ri·​ble | \ ˈter-ə-bəl How to pronounce terrible (audio) \

Kids Definition of terrible

1 : very great in degree a terrible fright a terrible mess
2 : very bad I got a terrible grade on the test.
3 : causing great fear a terrible monster

Other Words from terrible

terribly \ -​blē \ adverb

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on terrible

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with terrible

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for terrible

Spanish Central: Translation of terrible

Nglish: Translation of terrible for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of terrible for Arabic Speakers

Comments on terrible

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


to form ideas or theories about something

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!