Definition of dreadful in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdredfəl/


1Causing or involving great suffering, fear, or unhappiness; extremely bad or serious: there’s been a dreadful accident
More example sentences
  • ‘Nevertheless it was a serious attack, with dreadful injuries and that of course is something he regrets immensely,’ she said.
  • That was undoubtedly the worst period of my life, made even more dreadful by a growing fear that it would never end, and my life would be ruined.
  • How do you reconcile the dreadful suffering and loss of life caused by the tsunami in South East Asia with the idea of a loving God?
terrible, frightful, horrible, grim, awful, dire;
horrifying, alarming, shocking, distressing, appalling, harrowing;
ghastly, fearful, horrendous;
tragic, calamitous
formal grievous
1.1Extremely disagreeable: the weather was dreadful
More example sentences
  • Then why are they feeding them rotten, frightening, dreadful food for their minds and souls?
  • ‘As far as their understanding would go they would see it as possibly disgraceful and downright dreadful behaviour,’ he said.
  • Who says the admission to some other sports are any better value than the often dreadful rubbish served up in some of the GAA's National Leagues fixtures.
unpleasant, disagreeable, nasty;
frightful, shocking, awful, abysmal, atrocious, disgraceful, deplorable, very bad, repugnant;
poor, inadequate, inferior, unsatisfactory, distasteful
informal pathetic, woeful, crummy, rotten, sorry, third-rate, lousy, godawful
1.2 [attributive] Used to emphasize the degree to which something is the case, especially something regarded with sadness or disapproval: you’re a dreadful flirt
More example sentences
  • Six weeks on from the dreadful mistake which has left Miss Innes in a coma, her friends and family are awaiting the outcome of the hospital's own internal investigation and inquiries by the family lawyer.
  • We made these dreadful mistakes, we didn't realise what was to come.
  • Two years ago, I made the dreadful mistake of deciding with a long-term boyfriend that we would eat with his family that year, and mine the next.
outrageous, shocking;
inordinate, immoderate, unrestrained
1.3(Of a person) unwell or troubled: she looked dreadful and she was struggling for breath I feel dreadful—I hate myself
More example sentences
  • I've got a terrible codeine hangover and I feel dreadful.
  • I feel suitably dreadful today, and have only just lolled out of bed.



Pronunciation: /ˈdredfəlnəs/
Example sentences
  • Any inclination to take any of this seriously is rapidly seen off by the kitschy dreadfulness of much of the writing.
  • But does it follow from the special dreadfulness of the events of the twentieth century that the blossoming of a tree can no longer be seen by a decent, sensitive person without the shadow of terror falling upon it?
  • The mask alters the revelation in a fascinating way, both buffering and intensifying its dreadfulness, creating the conflicting desire to hang on every word while also pulling back to decipher the visual power and artifice of the scene.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: dread·ful

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