[ haw-ren-duhs, ho- ]
/ hɔˈrɛn dəs, hɒ- /
Save This Word!

shockingly dreadful; horrible: a horrendous crime.
Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of horrendous

1650–60; <Latin horrendus dreadful, to be feared (gerund of horrēre to bristle, shudder), equivalent to horr- (akin to hirsute) + -endus gerund suffix


hor·ren·dous·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does horrendous mean?

Horrendous is popularly used to mean extremely bad—awful, dreadful, or horrible.

It can also mean literally causing horror—horrifying or horrific, as in horrendous violence.

Example: If you’re wondering what cake tastes like when you accidentally use salt instead of sugar, it’s horrendous—completely disgusting and inedible.

Where does horrendous come from?

The first records of horrendous in English come from the 1600s. It comes from the Latin horrendus, meaning “fearful.” It ultimately derives from the Latin horrēre, which means “to tremble” or “to bristle” (a reference to one’s hair standing on end due to extreme fear) and is the basis of the word horror and the related words horrible, horrific, horrifying, and horrid.

Horrendous is perhaps most popularly used to simply mean “really bad,” in much the same way that horrible, terrible, and awful are often used, as in I had a horrendous time at that party—no one would talk to me! Sometimes, though, horrendous means truly horrific or horrifying, as in In my 30 years on the job, I’ve never seen a crime scene more horrendous than this. Real-life horror like violence can be described as horrendous, but you wouldn’t call a horror movie horrendous to mean it was really scary—you’d probably call it horrifying or terrifying. If it was really stupid and poorly made, though, then could call it horrendous. (Unless it was so bad it was good, in which case you might call it terrific!)

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to horrendous?

What are some synonyms for horrendous?

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

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

How is horrendous used in real life?

Horrendous can be used in extremely serious context as well as not-so-serious ones. War crimes are truly horrendous, but an actor’s bad accent in a movie can also be described as horrendous.



Try using horrendous!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym for horrendous

A. horrible
B. awful
C. terrible
D. terrific

How to use horrendous in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for horrendous

/ (hɒˈrɛndəs) /

another word for horrific

Derived forms of horrendous

horrendously, adverb

Word Origin for horrendous

C17: from Latin horrendus fearful, from horrēre to bristle, shudder, tremble; see horror
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