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From Middle English aghfulnesse, equivalent to awful +‎ -ness.



awfulness (usually uncountable, plural awfulnesses)

  1. The state or quality of being awful.
    • 1942, Emily Carr, “Characters”, in The Book of Small:
      Out came old Teenie, buzzing mad as a whole nest of wasps. Muttered awfulnesses came from her great padded bonnet.
    • 1961, Peter De Vries, chapter 3, in The Blood of the Lamb, Penguin, published 1982, page 36:
      "Why is the awfulness of families such a popular reason for starting another?"
  2. The quality of striking with awe, or with reverence
    Synonyms: dreadfulness, solemnity
    • 1823, Thomas de Quincey, “On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth”, in Robert Morrison, editor, On Murder, Oxford World's Classics, published 2006, page 3:
      [] the knocking at the gate, which succeeds to the murder of Duncan, produced to my feelings an effect for which I could never account: the effect was—that it reflected back upon the murder a peculiar awfulness and a depth of solemnity []
    the awfulness of this sacred place
  3. The state of being struck with awe; a spirit of solemnity; profound reverence.