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From a derivation of Old English gǣstan (to torment, frighten) with the suffix -lic. Equivalent to ghast/gast + -ly. Spelling with 'gh' developed 16th century from confusion with ghost; compare also ghostly.



ghastly (comparative ghastlier, superlative ghastliest)

  1. Like a ghost in appearance; deathlike; pale; pallid; dismal.
  2. Horrifyingly shocking.
    • John Milton (1608-1674)
      Mangled with ghastly wounds through plate and mail.
    • 1879, Richard Jefferies, chapter 1, The Amateur Poacher:
      They burned the old gun that used to stand in the dark corner up in the garret, close to the stuffed fox that always grinned so fiercely. Perhaps the reason why he seemed in such a ghastly rage was that he did not come by his death fairly. Otherwise his pelt would not have been so perfect.
  3. Extremely bad.
    The play was simply ghastly.




ghastly (not comparable)

  1. In a ghastly manner.
    He turned ghastly pale on hearing the news.