Definition of awful in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈôfəl/


1Very bad or unpleasant: the place smelled awful I look awful in a swimsuit an awful speech
More example sentences
  • Aside from that, I thought most of the speeches were pretty awful.
  • The problem is then he turned around and went to Columbia University on Wednesday and gave an awful speech on the economy.
  • The speeches can sometimes be awful but his was very amusing.
disgusting, horrible, terrible, dreadful, ghastly, nasty, vile, foul, revolting, repulsive, repugnant, odious, sickening, nauseating
informal yucky, gross, beastly
terrible, atrocious, dreadful, frightful, execrable, abominable;
inadequate, inferior, substandard, lamentable
informal crummy, pathetic, rotten, woeful, lousy, appalling, abysmal
1.1Extremely shocking; horrific: awful, bloody images
More example sentences
  • There doesn't seem to be any ability to understand how or why terrorists might be led to do the admittedly horrifying and awful and frightful things that they've done.
  • Something so dreadful, so awful, so horrifying, that Miiken could not stand the sight of it.
  • It was no surprise really that when he made that shocking and awful accusation, he was across the Atlantic, presumably discussing already how the spoils of war were to be divided.
serious, dreadful, grave, terrible, bad, critical
1.2 [attributive] Used to emphasize the extent of something, especially something unpleasant or negative: I’ve made an awful fool of myself
More example sentences
  • I made an awful fool of myself.
  • There's an awful risk of confusion for buyers.
  • It's still an awful burden.
1.3(Of a person) very unwell, troubled, or unhappy: I felt awful for being so angry with him you look awful—you should go and lie down
More example sentences
  • Come lunch time and I felt really awful - had a terrible headache and just wanted to go home and go to bed.
  • Vinton still hovered over his wounded sister and felt extremely awful for shooting her.
  • It always left him feeling awful and despicable and very, terribly lonely.
ill, unwell, sick, queasy, nauseous;
informal lousy, rotten, terrible, dreadful
remorseful, guilty, ashamed, contrite, sorry, regretful, repentant
2 archaic Inspiring reverential wonder or fear.
Example sentences
  • He is not always the evil, ghoulish, awful, frightening character that sometimes the Satanists would picture him to be.
  • They walk in awful splendor, regal yet.
  • The awful majesty of God now will not be in the way to hinder perfect freedom and intimacy in the enjoyment of God.
awe-inspiring, awesome, impressive;
dread, fearful


[as submodifier] informal, chiefly North American
Awfully; very: we’re an awful long way from the main road
More example sentences
  • This is an awful serious proposition… Let me argue it out for you.
  • And yet those games of the early 80s seem awful quaint now, don't they?
  • He has gotten awful buddy-buddy with them lately - maneuvering for the job?


an awful lot

A very large amount; a great deal: we’ve had an awful lot of letters you’ve still got an awful lot to learn
More example sentences
  • In the end it was down to an awful lot of luck and an awful lot of serendipity.
  • As a result, I do seem to have ended up knowing an awful lot of detail about an awful lot of blogs.
  • You can spend an awful lot of time as an addict, an awful lot of useless time, debating such stuff.


Old English (see awe, -ful).

Words that rhyme with awful


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: aw·ful

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.