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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English dredful, dredeful, equivalent to dread +‎ -ful.



dreadful ‎(comparative more dreadful, superlative most dreadful)

  1. Causing dread; very bad.
    • 1900, L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Chapter 23
      "My greatest wish now," she added, "is to get back to Kansas, for Aunt Em will surely think something dreadful has happened to me, and that will make her put on mourning; and unless the crops are better this year than they were last, I am sure Uncle Henry cannot afford it."
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 17, The Mirror and the Lamp:
      This time was most dreadful for Lilian. Thrown on her own resources and almost penniless, she maintained herself and paid the rent of a wretched room near the hospital by working as a charwoman, sempstress, anything. In a moment she had dropped to the level of a casual labourer.
    • 2011 December 10, Marc Higginson, “Bolton 1-2 Aston Villa”, BBC Sport:
      After a dreadful performance in the opening 45 minutes, they upped their game after the break and might have taken at least a point from the match.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Nouns to which "dreadful" is often applied: day, night, state, news, time, secret, storm, mistake, accident, story, dream, havoc, truth, loss, act, life, thought, creature, curse, suffering.



dreadful ‎(plural dreadfuls)

  1. A shocking or sensational crime.
  2. A shocking or sensational report of a crime.

Derived terms[edit]


  • dreadful” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary (2001).