[ gast-lee, gahst- ]
/ ˈgæst li, ˈgɑst- /
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See synonyms for: ghastly / ghastliness on Thesaurus.com

adjective, ghast·li·er, ghast·li·est.

shockingly frightful or dreadful; horrible: a ghastly murder.
resembling a ghost, especially in being very pale: a ghastly look to his face.
terrible; very bad: a ghastly error.


Also ghast·li·ly, ghast·i·ly. in a ghastly manner; horribly; terribly.
with a deathlike quality.



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Origin of ghastly

1275–1325; Middle English gastly;see ghast, -ly


ghast·li·ness, noun

Words nearby ghastly

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does ghastly mean?

Ghastly means dreadful, horrible, terrible, or shockingly frightful.

Ghastly is more common in everyday usage in the U.K. than in the U.S., but it is used in the same ways in both places. It can be applied in a range of serious and not-so-serious ways.

Ghastly can also mean resembling a ghost due to being very pale. Less commonly, it can be used as an adverb.

Example: Our dinner was positively ghastly—all the food was underseasoned and overcooked until it was nearly inedible.

Where does ghastly come from?

The first records of ghastly come from around the 1300s. Both ghastly and the related word aghast (meaning “filled with shock or horror”) derive from the Old English gǣstan, meaning “to frighten.” The word ghost is related, as is the geist in poltergeist.

Unsurprisingly, given its etymology, ghastly was first used to mean “terrifying” or “causing horror.” Today, it is still often used to describe things that are truly horrific, as in ghastly violence. But it is also commonly used in less serious situations in which we might otherwise use horrible, dreadful, or awful, especially relating to the quality of something or how it looks. When we say this coffee is ghastly, we mean it tastes very bad. When we call someone’s shoes ghastly, we’re saying they’re unfashionable to the point of being ugly, even hideous. When we wake up feeling ghastly, it means we’re feeling very unwell. In this case, we might also look ghastly—pale and sickly.

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What are some other forms related to ghastly?

  • ghastlier (adjective, comparative form)
  • ghastliest (adjective, superlative form)
  • ghastliness (noun)
  • ghastlily (adverb)
  • ghastily (adverb)

What are some synonyms for ghastly?

What are some words that share a root or word element with ghastly


What are some words that often get used in discussing ghastly?

What are some words ghastly may be commonly confused with?

How is ghastly used in real life?

English speakers in the U.K. are more likely to use ghastly than those in the U.S., where the word may sound somewhat formal.



Try using ghastly!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of ghastly?

A. dreadful
B. horrible
C. wonderful
D. terrifying

Example sentences from the Web for ghastly

British Dictionary definitions for ghastly

/ (ˈɡɑːstlɪ) /

adjective -lier or -liest

informal very bad or unpleasant
deathly pale; wan
informal extremely unwell; illthey felt ghastly after the party
terrifying; horrible


unhealthily; sicklyghastly pale
archaic in a horrible or hideous manner

Derived forms of ghastly

ghastliness, noun

Word Origin for ghastly

Old English gāstlīc spiritual; see ghostly
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
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