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  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.
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noun British.
  1. penny dreadful.
  2. a periodical given to highly sensational matter.
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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

Related Words for dreadful

atrocious, horrific, ghastly, horrendous, abominable, distressing, tremendous, alarming, monstrous, terrific, rotten, tragic, hideous, grievous, shameful, dire, awful, grim, terrible, appalling

Examples from the Web for dreadful

Contemporary Examples of dreadful

Historical Examples of dreadful

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
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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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper