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Origin of dreadful
OTHER WORDS FROM dreadfuldread·ful·ness, nounqua·si-dread·ful, adjectivequa·si-dread·ful·ly, adverb
Words nearby dreadful
What does dreadful mean?
Dreadful most commonly means extremely bad, unpleasant, or ugly.
Less commonly, it can also mean causing great fear or terror, which makes sense because dreadful is the adjective form of the noun dread, meaning fear.
Dreadful can also be used as an intensifier (a word that makes the meaning of the word it modifies more intense) in much the same way that awful can, as in You took a dreadful long time getting time. In cases like this, neither awful nor dreadful mean bad, but they are typically used in negative situations as opposed to positive ones.
Dreadful can also be used in a more specific way as a shortened form of the term penny dreadful, the name for inexpensive illustrated books featuring violent action that were popular in Britain during the mid- and late-1800s.
Example: My throat hurts, my head’s pounding, I’ve got the chills—I feel absolutely dreadful.
Where does dreadful come from?
The first records of dreadful come from around 1200. It comes from the Middle English dredful. The word dread can be a noun meaning “fear” or a verb meaning “to fear.” The suffix -ful, means “full of,” makes it into an adjective.
Dreadful is one of the many words based on terms that relate to fear that are now simply used to mean “really bad.” Many of these words can be used as synonyms of dreadful, including horrible, horrid, horrendous (all related to the word horror), and terrible (related to terror). In this way, dreadful is often used as a harsh criticism, as in I’m sorry about my dreadful cooking or That movie was dreadful—I wanted to leave halfway through. In this sense, the word awful is a close synonym.
The word dread refers to terror but it can also refer to apprehension, as in I always have a strong sense of dread before I take a test. However, if you wanted to describe the test as “causing apprehension,” you wouldn’t use the adjective dreadful. Instead, you’d used the adjective dreaded.
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What are some other forms of dreadful?
What are some synonyms for dreadful?
What are some words that share a root or word element with dreadful?
What are some words that often get used in discussing dreadful?
How is dreadful used in real life?
In modern conversation, the word dreadful is most often used to describe something that’s just plain bad, as opposed to something that causes fear.
I really wanted to like Picard but the script was dreadful
— Dan Salt (@danieljohnsalt) April 26, 2020
#STLCards defense, amazingly improved from 2018 and very good this year, has been simply dreadful today in Game 4, a potential elimination game for them
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 7, 2019
On behalf of the Royal Thai Government and people of the Kingdom of Thailand, I wish to express our deepest condolences for this dreadful event. Our deepest sympathies go to the families of those innocent people who lost their lives as well as those who were injured.
— ประยุทธ์ จันทร์โอชา Prayut Chan-o-cha (@prayutofficial) March 16, 2019
Try using dreadful!
Which of the following words would NOT be used to describe something considered dreadful?
Example sentences from the Web for dreadful
He looked, that dreadful afternoon, as if he had just come from his barber, tailor and haberdasher.The Stacks: H.L. Mencken on the 1904 Baltimore Fire|H.L. Mencken|October 4, 2014|DAILY BEAST
In the novel, the moral situation Frances ends up in is dreadful.Sarah Waters: Queen of the Tortured Lesbian Romance|Tim Teeman|September 30, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Any of the three on its own would have been dreadful enough.American Statesmanship Is Depressingly MIA on Border Kids, MH17 & Gaza|Michael Tomasky|July 21, 2014|DAILY BEAST
As a result, reporting and public expectations suffered a dreadful, anti-climatic slump.
The job market in philosophy went from awful to dreadful starting in 2008 and has never really recovered.
I learned later that he had implored the Superior on his knees not to lay this dreadful command upon him, but all in vain.The Monk and The Hangman's Daughter|Adolphe Danziger De Castro and Ambrose Bierce
I am sure, from that poor woman's dreadful death, that something terrible has occurred, perhaps to Lady Rookwood.Rookwood|William Harrison Ainsworth
I am glad at least that I have removed that dreadful woman out of your path, said Lady Frances.A Very Naughty Girl|L. T. Meade
It would no doubt be a dreadful risk, and before she went to sleep again she had almost decided to give up the plan altogether.Penelope and the Others|Amy Walton
Not for a moment did she appear to realize the dreadful mistake she had made.A Lover in Homespun|F. Clifford Smith