[gast-lee, gahst-]

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.

Origin of ghastly

1275–1325; Middle English gastly; see ghast, -ly
Related formsghast·li·ness, noun

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

Examples from the Web for ghastly

Contemporary Examples of ghastly

Historical Examples of ghastly

  • The pain in the marshal's face became a ghastly thing to see.

  • It is a ghastly business, quite beyond words, this schooling.

  • Her face was ghastly, save for the trace of rouge; her eyes were red-rimmed.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • These blunders culminated in a ghastly mistake on the field.

  • It was such a pitiful, ghastly bluff—for the cards were all against him, and he knew it.

British Dictionary definitions for ghastly


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 Formsghastliness, 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

Word Origin and History for ghastly

c.1300, gastlich, from gast (adj.), past participle of gasten "to frighten," from Old English gæstan "to torment, frighten" (see ghost) + -lich "-ly." Spelling with gh- developed 16c. from confusion with ghost. As an adverb, from 1580s. Related: Ghastliness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper