: struck with terror, amazement, or horror : shocked and upset
was aghast when she heard the news

Did you know?

If you are aghast, you might look like you've just seen a ghost, or something similarly shocking. Aghast traces back to a Middle English verb, gasten, meaning "to frighten." Gasten (which also gave us ghastly, meaning "terrible or frightening") comes from gast, a Middle English spelling of the word ghost. Gast also came to be used in English as a verb meaning "to scare." That verb is now obsolete, but its spirit lives on in words spoken by the character Edmund in William Shakespeare's King Lear: "gasted by the noise I made, full suddenly he fled."

Examples of aghast in a Sentence

The news left her aghast. Critics were aghast to see how awful the play was.
Recent Examples on the Web The commercial sees a mom coming home comically aghast at a giant hole in her living room wall that her husband put there because of T-Mobile’s cell service, which according to the commercial can impacted by walls. Lawrence Dow, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 11 Feb. 2024 Standing aghast in a scrub forest, humiliated that the young man had treated her like a trespasser, Ms. Pierce could barely look at her girls. Elizabeth Williamson, New York Times, 27 Sep. 2023 For months, hundreds of religious parents have regularly rallied outside a Maryland school board building, aghast at curriculum featuring books that portray LGBTQ+ families to elementary school kids. Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times, 25 Sep. 2023 The escalating tensions have been well documented in town Facebook groups and the local paper: In 2022, neighbors were aghast when a resident from the Pleasantville campus stole a chicken from a coop in a nearby backyard and bit its head off. Abigail Kramer, ProPublica, 3 Jan. 2024 The Spaniards who have stumbled onto Moctezuma’s court are aghast at the stench of priests covered in blood from human sacrifices, while Moctezuma’s assiduously clean courtiers complain that the men smell of excrement and dogs. Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Los Angeles Times, 2 Jan. 2024 Most of the West, across traditional partisan lines, was aghast at the crackdown that killed at least hundreds of student activists. Maggie Haberman, New York Times, 4 Dec. 2023 While some locals are sympathetic to the plight of migrants, others are aghast at the prospect of the arrival of tens of thousands of mostly young men from Africa, the Middle East, and southern Asia. Nick Squires, The Christian Science Monitor, 11 Dec. 2023 For thousands of Parisians who watched aghast from the banks of the Seine, and for millions of viewers around the world watching on television, the spire’s fall was the most shocking symbol of the fire’s destructive power. Aurelien Breeden, New York Times, 8 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'aghast.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


alteration (with h after ghastly, ghost entry 1) of Middle English agast, from past participle of agasten "to frighten, become frightened," from a-, perfective prefix + gasten "to frighten" — more at abide, gast

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of aghast was in the 13th century


Dictionary Entries Near aghast

Cite this Entry

“Aghast.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aghast. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: struck with terror, amazement, or horror

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