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

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

Antonyms for frightful

1, 2. delightful. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for frightfully

Contemporary Examples of frightfully

Historical Examples of frightfully

  • Marcolina and I were frightfully hungry, but of course we have waited dinner for you.

    Casanova's Homecoming

    Arthur Schnitzler

  • She wore black and white and red, and she was frightfully smart, Betty thought.

  • I've been ill—influenza, you know—and I got so frightfully tired.

  • O, Bobbie, I do hate hurting you, and I do like you so frightfully much!

  • The Doubters replied with 'horrible objections,' which were frightfully effective.


    James Anthony Froude

British Dictionary definitions for frightfully



(intensifier)I'm frightfully glad



very alarming, distressing, or horrifying
unpleasant, annoying, or extremea frightful hurry
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 frightfully



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper