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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English frightful ‎(afraid), from Old English forhtful ‎(fainthearted, timorous), equivalent to fright +‎ -ful.


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frightful ‎(comparative more frightful, superlative most frightful)

  1. (obsolete) Full of fright, whether
    1. Afraid, frightened.
      • c. 1250, Genesis and Exodus, l. 3459:
        Ðis frigtful ðus a-biden,
        Quiles ðis daiȝes for ben gliden.
    2. Timid, fearful, easily frightened.
      • 1613, William Browne, Britannia's Pastorals:
        See how the frightful herds run from the wood.
  2. Full of something causing fright, whether
    1. Genuinely horrific, awful, or alarming
    2. (hyperbolic) Unpleasant, dreadful, awful (also used as an intensifier)
      • 1990, House of Cards, Season 1, Episode 1:
        Francis Urquhart: What a frightful little man. Where do they find them these days?
        Tim Stamper: God knows. If I had a dog like that, I'd shoot it.
        Francis Urquhart: Well, yes. Quite.



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  • Webster's, "frightful", 1913.
  • Oxford English Dictionary, "frightful, adj.", 1898.