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See more synonyms for frightful on Thesaurus.com
  1. such as to cause fright; dreadful, terrible, or alarming: A frightful howl woke us.
  2. horrible, shocking, or revolting: The storm did frightful damage.
  3. Informal. unpleasant; disagreeable: We had a frightful time.
  4. Informal. very great; extreme: That actor is very talented but a frightful ham.
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Origin of frightful

Middle English word dating back to 1200–50; see origin at fright, -ful
Related formsfright·ful·ly, adverbfright·ful·ness, nounun·fright·ful, adjective

Synonyms for frightful

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Antonyms for frightful

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

Related Words for frightful

dreadful, lewd, calamitous, terrible, terrific, unpleasant, ghastly, horrible, awful, shocking, hideous, annoying, bad, disagreeable, extreme, great, insufferable, vile, wicked, wrong

Examples from the Web for frightful

Contemporary Examples of frightful

Historical Examples of frightful

  • All her thought was how to get him away from the frightful place.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • It was rather a frightful place to go into in search of the source of a shriek.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • There was a frightful grin of triumph twisting his mouth in this minute of punishment.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Down almost to our own day the depredations of wolves were frightful.

    The Roof of France

    Matilda Betham-Edwards

  • For about five minutes it was the most frightful scene I have ever witnessed.


    Scian Dubh

British Dictionary definitions for frightful


  1. very alarming, distressing, or horrifying
  2. unpleasant, annoying, or extremea frightful hurry
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Derived Formsfrightfulness, 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 frightful


mid-13c., "timid;" c.1600 "alarming;" from fright + -ful. In common with most -ful adjectives, it once had both an active and passive sense. Meaning "dreadful, horrible, shocking" (often hyperbolic) is attested from c.1700; Johnson noted it as "a cant word among women for anything unpleasing." Related: Frightfully.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper