Origin of terrible
OTHER WORDS FROM terribleter·ri·ble·ness, nounun·ter·ri·ble, adjective
Words nearby terrible
What does terrible mean?
Terrible is commonly used to mean extremely bad—awful, dreadful, or horrible.
It can also mean severe, as in I have a terrible case of the flu. (Of course, this sense of the word often overlaps with its meaning of “extremely bad.”)
When it’s used to describe a person, terrible often means extremely disagreeable or cruel.
Terrible is also a somewhat formal way of describing something as having great power or being worthy of awe. This sense of terrible is especially used to describe supernatural power, as in The wizard is known to wield a terrible force with his staff.
Much less commonly, terrible can mean literally causing terror, but the related word terrifying is much more commonly used to mean this.
Example: Everyone seems to like that restaurant, but I had a terrible experience there—bad food and even worse service.
Where does terrible come from?
The first records of the word terrible come from the 1400s. It comes from the Latin terribilis, which ultimately derives from the Latin verb terrēre, meaning “to frighten” or “to terrify.” Terrēre is also the basis of terrify, terrifying, terror, and terrific. (Unlike horrific, the word terrific is almost never used to mean “terrifying” or “horrifying”—it usually means “very good” or “intense.”)
Terrible is most popularly used to simply mean “really bad,” in much the same way that horrible and awful are often used, as in I had a terrible time at that party—no one would talk to me! It’s very rarely used to mean truly horrific or terrifying. Real-life horror-like violence can be described as terrible, but you wouldn’t call a horror movie terrible to mean it was really scary—you’d probably call it terrifying. If it was really stupid and poorly made, though, then you could call it terrible. (Unless it was so bad it was good, in which case you might call it terrific!)
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What are some other forms related to terrible?
- terribly (adverb)
- terribleness (noun)
What are some synonyms for terrible?
What are some words that share a root or word element with terrible?
What are some words that often get used in discussing terrible?
How is terrible used in real life?
The word terrible is very common. It’s usually used negatively.
Today we reflect on the terrible disaster that took place 6 years ago. A disaster that took the lives of all 298 people on board flight MH17. And a disaster that forever changed the lives of their loved ones. I wish them strength on this emotional day. pic.twitter.com/ghSJLN6dmE
— Mark Rutte (@MinPres) July 17, 2020
Terrible terrible news. Just heard that John Lewis has passed away this evening. Our heroes. All our heroes. May we live lives that are worthy of what they gave to us. Rest in Power brother Lewis. You gave us all such good trouble.
— Phillip Atiba Goff (@DrPhilGoff) July 18, 2020
u ever been in the car w such a terrible driver u jus close ur eyes and accept that whatever happens happens
— ☆𝔥𝔢𝔩𝔢𝔫𝔞☆ (@lithiumd0ll) July 24, 2020
Try using terrible!
Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of terrible?
How to use terrible in a sentence
Aki was dead right — the way I’d handled the situation was terrible.What if Your Company Had No Rules? (Bonus Episode)|Maria Konnikova|September 12, 2020|Freakonomics
Maybe even, if the threat seems terrible enough and the situation pulls you along, drawing the worst from you, you might find yourself a perpetrator.Believing in Monsters: David Livingstone Smith on the Subhuman - Facts So Romantic|Eric Schwitzgebel|September 11, 2020|Nautilus
Seems like it would have been easier to write how terrible a style choice oversized T-shirts are.
He was a business owner also, and it really did work, all the jobs I had that I was terrible at — well, no, it wasn’t that I’m terrible at, that I was angry at because I wasn’t getting the management I needed.Tan France Goes Deep on Racism and When He Almost Quit ‘Queer Eye’|Eugene Robinson|September 3, 2020|Ozy
The workers at this facility had the courage to stand up against this terrible treatment.Temp Workers Fight Back Against Alleged Sexual Harassment and Say They Face Retaliation for Doing So|by Melissa Sanchez|August 28, 2020|ProPublica
He returned home to learn that his 9-year-old son had been awakened in the night by a terrible dream.Choking Back Tears, Thousands of Cops Honor Fallen Officer Ramos|Michael Daly|December 28, 2014|DAILY BEAST
The birds are debeaked, suffer ulcers, and terrible feet conditions.The History of the Chicken: How This Humble Bird Saved Humanity|William O’Connor|December 27, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Amelia says some truly terrible things to Sam, supposedly inhabited by the Babadook but really consumed in grief.
Most frustratingly for the school chancellor, this made it all but impossible to fire terrible teachers.
I knew because I rifled through his mail that terrible October morning.I Was Gang Raped at a UVA Frat 30 Years Ago, and No One Did Anything|Liz Seccuro|December 16, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Judge or sheriff, it was all one to them, each being equally terrible in their eyes.The Bondboy|George W. (George Washington) Ogden
Terror drives you on; fate coerces you; you can't help yourself, and my delight is to make the plunge terrible.Checkmate|Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
The king was struck with horror at the description I had given him of those terrible engines, and the proposal I had made.Gulliver's Travels|Jonathan Swift
The history of that terrible hour is brightened by many such instances of native fealty.The Red Year|Louis Tracy
He stood listening to what I was saying, and I recall that when I turned slightly and saw his face, it was terrible!The Homesteader|Oscar Micheaux