[ frahyt-fuhl ]
/ ˈfraɪt fəl /


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.

Nearby words

  1. fright wig,
  2. frighten,
  3. frightened,
  4. frightener,
  5. frightening,
  6. frightfully,
  7. frigid,
  8. frigid zone,
  9. frigidaire,
  10. frigidarium

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

Examples from the Web for frightfully

British Dictionary definitions for frightfully


/ (ˈfraɪtfəlɪ) /


(intensifier)I'm frightfully glad


/ (ˈfraɪtfʊl) /


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