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[ter-uh-buh l] /ˈtɛr ə bəl/
distressing; severe:
a terrible winter.
extremely bad; horrible:
terrible coffee; a terrible movie.
exciting terror, awe, or great fear; dreadful; awful.
formidably great:
a terrible responsibility.
Origin of terrible
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Latin terribilis, equivalent to terr(ēre) to frighten + -ibilis -ible
Related forms
terribleness, noun
unterrible, adjective
3. fearful, frightful, appalling, dire, horrible, horrifying, terrifying, horrendous, horrid. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for terribleness
Historical Examples
  • Yet it is here that the genius of Michael Angelo in all its terribleness must still be studied.

    Renaissance in Italy Vol. 3 John Addington Symonds
  • In an instant I was rolling on the deck and shrieking from the terribleness of my suffering.

    East of Suez Frederic Courtland Penfield
  • And the South arose to the terribleness of the crime and met it with the rifle, the torch and the rope.

    The Bishop of Cottontown John Trotwood Moore
  • I mean in his power of heightening the glory and the terribleness of the human race.

    Visions and Revisions John Cowper Powys
  • The terribleness of a life sentence must be seen to be appreciated; seen, too, not for a day or a week, but for a term of years.

    A Plea for the Criminal James Leslie Allan Kayll
  • The terribleness that at times proceeds from them has no equal in any other condition of existence.

    The Goose Man Jacob Wassermann
  • "terribleness" is but the emptiest of threats and the weakest of weapons.

    A Noble Woman Ernest Protheroe
  • The terribleness of war has been forcibly impressed on all participants.

    Drum Taps in Dixie Delavan S. Miller
  • Yet in the psychology of the strong the lesson is despised and no count taken of the terribleness of the weak.

    Creative Unity Rabindranath Tagore
  • The terribleness of the sight painted the honest anxiety for the woman on his face.

British Dictionary definitions for terribleness


very serious or extreme: a terrible cough
(informal) of poor quality; unpleasant or bad: a terrible meal, a terrible play
causing terror
causing awe: the terrible nature of God
Derived Forms
terribleness, noun
Word Origin
C15: from Latin terribilis, from terrēre to terrify
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for terribleness



early 15c., "causing terror, frightful," from Old French terrible (12c.), from Latin terribilis "frightful," from terrere "fill with fear," from PIE root *tres- "to tremble" (cf. Sanskrit trasati "trembles," Avestan tarshta "feared, revered," Greek treëin "to tremble," Lithuanian triseti "to tremble," Old Church Slavonic treso "I shake," Middle Irish tarrach "timid"). Weakened sense of "very bad, awful" is first attested 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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