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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English agheful, awfull, auful, aȝefull, equivalent to awe +‎ -ful. Compare Old English eġeful, eġefull (terrifying; awful).



awful (comparative awfuller or more awful, superlative awfullest or most awful)

  1. Very bad.
    The smell of my socks is awful.
    We saw such an awful film last night that we left the theater before the end.
  2. Exceedingly great; usually applied intensively.
    an awful bonnet
    I have learnt an awful amount today.
    • 2010, BioWare, Mass Effect 2 (Science Fiction), Redwood City: Electronic Arts, →OCLC, PC, scene: Normandy SR-2 AI Core Room:
      Shepard: You seem to know an awful lot about me.
      Geth: Extranet data sources. Insecure broadcasts. All organic data sent out is received. We watch you.
  3. (dated) Causing fear or horror; appalling, terrible.
    • 1839, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Schalken the Painter:
      There was an air of gravity and importance about the garb of the person, and something indescribably odd, I might say awful, in the perfect, stonelike stillness of the figure, that effectually checked the testy comment which had at once risen to the lips of the irritated artist.
    • 1850, [Alfred, Lord Tennyson], In Memoriam, London: Edward Moxon, [], →OCLC, Canto XXX, page 48:
      At our old pastimes in the hall
      ⁠We gambol’d, making vain pretence
      ⁠Of gladness, with an awful sense
      Of one mute Shadow watching all.
  4. (now rare) Inspiring awe; filling with profound reverence or respect; profoundly impressive.
    Alternative form: awe-ful
    • 1889, Harriet McEwen Kimball, Poems, "Omniscience":
      As I am seen could I but gaze on Thee / Awful in majesty and royal might
    • 1603, Michel de Montaigne, chapter 56, in John Florio, transl., The Essayes [], book I, London: [] Val[entine] Simmes for Edward Blount [], →OCLC:
      God ought not to be commixed in our actions, but with awful reverence, and an attention full of honour and respect.
    • 1819, Lord Byron, Don Juan, II.143:
      And then she stopped, and stood as if in awe / (For sleep is awful) [].
    • 1981, William Irwin Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, London: Rider/Hutchinson & Co., page 124:
      If the keepers of the sacred corral discovered paternity in their stock breeding, then that knowledge would have been seen as numinous, awe-ful, and unconsciously unsettling.
  5. (now rare) Struck or filled with awe or reverence.
    • 1848 November – 1850 December, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 2, in The History of Pendennis. [], volumes (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1849–1850, →OCLC:
      She spoke about Mr. Pendennis (a worthy little gentleman enough, but there are others as good as he) with an awful reverence, as if he had been the Pope of Rome on his throne, and she a cardinal kneeling at his feet, and giving him incense.
  6. (obsolete) Terror-stricken.


Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


awful (not comparable)

  1. (colloquial) Awfully; dreadfully; terribly.
    • 1933 January 21, The Sydney Sportsman, NSW, page 1:
      The race was run, and the dog ran "awful".
  2. (colloquial, US, Canada) Very, extremely.
    That's an awful big house.
    She seemed awful nice when I met her yesterday.
    He was blubbering away something awful.


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]