View synonyms for dreadful


[ dred-fuhl ]


  1. causing great dread, fear, or terror; terrible:

    a dreadful storm.

    Synonyms: dire, frightful

  2. inspiring awe or reverence.
  3. extremely bad, unpleasant, or ugly:

    dreadful cooking; a dreadful hat.


, British.
  1. a periodical given to highly sensational matter.


/ ˈdrɛdfʊl /


  1. extremely disagreeable, shocking, or bad

    what 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 Forms

  • ˈdreadfulness, noun

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Other Words From

  • dreadful·ness noun
  • quasi-dreadful adjective
  • quasi-dreadful·ly adverb

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Word History and Origins

Origin of dreadful1

First recorded in 1175–1225, dreadful is from the Middle English word dredful. See dread, -ful

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Example Sentences

I guess the reason it needs a lot of chocolate is the actual cookie is rather dreadful.

As a glasses-noob suffering from the dreadful fog myself, I turned to the internet for answers.

She is a threat to its isolation, its purity, and its unknowable and dreadful secrets.

From Vox

If there were to be any sort of silver lining to dreadful circumstances, this was it.

Toronto’s offense checks in just outside the top 10 for the full season, and it’s been dreadful during the restart.

Is there a more dreadful sensation than that of your stomach wringing itself out like a washcloth?

He looked, that dreadful afternoon, as if he had just come from his barber, tailor and haberdasher.

In the novel, the moral situation Frances ends up in is dreadful.

Any of the three on its own would have been dreadful enough.

There are some hopeful elements in an otherwise dreadful day for human rights.

The conflict in Tom's puzzled heart sharpened that evening into dreadful edges that cut him mercilessly whichever way he turned.

He could not bear to open his dreadful situation to his Uncle David, nor to kill himself, nor to defy the vengeance of Longcluse.

At other times they have a dreadful look of being fibs invented for the purpose of covering a fault.

Nevertheless, this world of mankind to-day seems to me to be a very sinister and dreadful world.

She had wakened up in the night, and perceived with dreadful clearness that trouble lay in front of her.


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More About 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.

Did you know ... ?

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. 



Try using dreadful!

Which of the following words would NOT be used to describe something considered dreadful?

A. grim
B. terrible
C. hideous
D. wonderful

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