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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English awfull, agheful, 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. Oppressing with 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.
  2. (now rare) Inspiring awe; filling with profound reverence or respect; profoundly impressive.
    • , I.56:
      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) [].
  3. Struck or filled with awe.
  4. (obsolete) Terror-stricken.
  5. Worshipful; reverential; law-abiding.
  6. Exceedingly great; usually applied intensively.
    an awful bonnet
    I have learnt an awful amount today.
  7. Very bad.
    My socks smell awful.


Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


awful (not comparable)

  1. (colloquial, US, Canada) Very, extremely.
    That's an awful big house.
    She seemed awful nice when I met her yesterday.


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]