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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for terribleness
Historical Examples
  • His own nothingness and the terribleness of the power and the will of God was what he was to feel.

    Museum of Antiquity L. W. Yaggy
  • In an instant I was rolling on the deck and shrieking from the terribleness of my suffering.

    East of Suez Frederic Courtland Penfield
  • I mean in his power of heightening the glory and the terribleness of the human race.

    Visions and Revisions John Cowper Powys
  • The terribleness that at times proceeds from them has no equal in any other condition of existence.

    The Goose Man Jacob Wassermann
  • The terribleness of war has been forcibly impressed on all participants.

    Drum Taps in Dixie Delavan S. Miller
  • Then she moved and continued her vague tale of terribleness.

    Pierre; or The Ambiguities Herman Melville
  • "terribleness" is but the emptiest of threats and the weakest of weapons.

    A Noble Woman Ernest Protheroe
  • He seemed to know the terribleness of the night through which The Rat had passed.

    The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The terribleness of the sight painted the honest anxiety for the woman on his face.

  • 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
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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