(1)   Causing fear or dread or terror
"The awful war"
"An awful risk"
"Dire news"
"A career or vengeance so direful that London was shocked"
"The dread presence of the headmaster"
"Polio is no longer the dreaded disease it once was"
"A dreadful storm"
"A fearful howling"
"Horrendous explosions shook the city"
"A terrible curse"
(2)   Exceptionally bad or displeasing
"Atrocious taste"
"Abominable workmanship"
"An awful voice"
"Dreadful manners"
"A painful performance"
"Terrible handwriting"
"An unspeakable odor came sweeping into the room"
(3)   Intensely or extremely bad or unpleasant in degree or quality
"Severe pain"
"A severe case of flu"
"A terrible cough"
"Under wicked fire from the enemy's guns"
"A wicked cough"
(4)   Extreme in degree or extent or amount or impact
"In a frightful hurry"
"Spent a frightful amount of money"


From < < . Cf. terror, deter.


  1. Dreadful; causing alarm and fear.
    The witch gave him a terrible curse.
  2. Most formidable.
    • 1883: Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
      ...and there was even a party of the younger men who pretended to admire him, calling him a "true sea-dog," and "real old salt," and such-like names, and saying there was the sort of man that made England terrible at sea.
  3. Intense; extreme in degree or extent.
    He paid a terrible price for his life of drinking.
  4. Unpleasant; disagreeable.
    The food was terrible, but it was free.
  5. Very bad; lousy.
    Whatever he thinks, he is a terrible driver.

Related terms

  • terrific
  • terrify
  • terrifying
  • terror
  • terrorist
  • terrorize