See more synonyms for dreadful on Thesaurus.com
  1. causing great dread, fear, or terror; terrible: a dreadful storm.
  2. inspiring awe or reverence.
  3. extremely bad, unpleasant, or ugly: dreadful cooking; a dreadful hat.
noun British.
  1. penny dreadful.
  2. a periodical given to highly sensational matter.

Origin of dreadful

First recorded in 1175–1225, dreadful is from the Middle English word dredful. See dread, -ful
Related formsdread·ful·ness, nounqua·si-dread·ful, adjectivequa·si-dread·ful·ly, adverb

Synonyms for dreadful

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for dreadful


  1. extremely disagreeable, shocking, or badwhat a dreadful play
  2. (intensifier)this is a dreadful waste of time
  3. causing dread; terrifying
  4. archaic inspiring awe
Derived Formsdreadfulness, noun
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

Word Origin and History for dreadful

early 13c., "full of dread," from dread (n.) + -ful. Meaning "causing dread" is from mid-13c.; weakened sense of "very bad" is from c.1700. Related: Dreadfully.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper