- such as to cause fright; dreadful, terrible, or alarming: A frightful howl woke us.
- horrible, shocking, or revolting: The storm did frightful damage.
- Informal. unpleasant; disagreeable: We had a frightful time.
- Informal. very great; extreme: That actor is very talented but a frightful ham.
Origin of frightful
SynonymsSee more synonyms for frightful on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for frightful
All these frightful trends are already emerging—and they will accelerate every day that the diplomatic wrangling continues.Shaming Russia for Arming Assad Won’t Help End Syria’s Civil War
Tamara Cofman Wittes
June 13, 2012
When the weather outside is frightful, board a plane and head to Florida.Fresh Picks
December 1, 2009
Today, it's worlds away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time.McCain's Comedy Comeback
October 17, 2008
All her thought was how to get him away from the frightful place.
It was rather a frightful place to go into in search of the source of a shriek.
There was a frightful grin of triumph twisting his mouth in this minute of punishment.Within the Law
Down almost to our own day the depredations of wolves were frightful.The Roof of France
For about five minutes it was the most frightful scene I have ever witnessed.Ridgeway
- very alarming, distressing, or horrifying
- unpleasant, annoying, or extremea frightful hurry
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.