distressing; severe: a terrible winter.
extremely bad; horrible: terrible coffee; a terrible movie.
exciting terror, awe, or great fear; dreadful; awful.
formidably great: a terrible responsibility.

Origin of terrible

1400–50; late Middle English < Latin terribilis, equivalent to terr(ēre) to frighten + -ibilis -ible
Related formster·ri·ble·ness, nounun·ter·ri·ble, adjective

Synonyms for terrible

3. fearful, frightful, appalling, dire, horrible, horrifying, terrifying, horrendous, horrid.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for terribleness

Historical Examples of terribleness

  • His own nothingness and the terribleness of the power and the will of God was what he was to feel.

  • In an instant I was rolling on the deck and shrieking from the terribleness of my suffering.

    East of Suez

    Frederic Courtland Penfield

  • I mean in his power of heightening the glory and the terribleness of the human race.

    Visions and Revisions

    John Cowper Powys

  • The terribleness that at times proceeds from them has no equal in any other condition of existence.

    The Goose Man

    Jacob Wassermann

  • The terribleness of war has been forcibly impressed on all participants.

    Drum Taps in Dixie

    Delavan S. Miller

British Dictionary definitions for terribleness



very serious or extremea terrible cough
informal of poor quality; unpleasant or bada terrible meal; a terrible play
causing terror
causing awethe terrible nature of God
Derived Formsterribleness, noun

Word Origin for terrible

C15: from Latin terribilis, from terrēre to terrify
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 terribleness



early 15c., "causing terror, frightful," from Old French terrible (12c.), from Latin terribilis "frightful," from terrere "fill with fear," from PIE root *tres- "to tremble" (cf. Sanskrit trasati "trembles," Avestan tarshta "feared, revered," Greek treëin "to tremble," Lithuanian triseti "to tremble," Old Church Slavonic treso "I shake," Middle Irish tarrach "timid"). Weakened sense of "very bad, awful" is first attested 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper