Definition of ghastly in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɡas(t)lē/

adjective (ghastlier, ghastliest)

1Causing great horror or fear; frightful or macabre: she was overcome with horror at the ghastly spectacle
More example sentences
  • But when we looked up, the fires and smoke shifted from ghastly spectacle to specific human horror.
  • But the horror was just too ghastly to verbalize.
  • For others it was a slaughter of the innocents, a ghastly reminder of the horrors and insanity of war.
terrible, horrible, grim, awful, dire;
frightening, terrifying, horrifying, alarming;
distressing, shocking, appalling, harrowing;
dreadful, frightful, horrendous, monstrous, gruesome, grisly
informal gut-wrenching
1.1 informal Objectionable; unpleasant: we had to wear ghastly old-fashioned dresses
More example sentences
  • With his ghastly haircut and appalling dress sense, and his strange mannerisms, he is, nevertheless a giant of a man.
  • She is confined to her bed with ghastly old-fashioned furniture and state-supermarket fare.
  • A ghastly terrible obscene waste of human life.
2Extremely unwell: he always felt ghastly first thing in the morning
2.1Deathly white or pallid: a ghastly pallor [as submodifier]: he turned ghastly pale and rushed to the bathroom
More example sentences
  • Her right arm came up, and pushed a hidden button on her forehead, and the helmet disappeared, replaced by a ghastly pale white head with green hair falling down her shoulders.
  • There was no mistaking those ghastly eyes and pale white skin.
  • Her lips were shrivelled and pale, her skin a ghastly white.
pale, white, pallid, pasty, wan, bloodless, peaked, ashen, gray, waxy, blanched, drained, pinched, green, sickly, ghostly, ghostlike
informal like death warmed over



Pronunciation: /ˈɡas(t)lēnəs/
Example sentences
  • Behind her the shadow heightens this sense of foreboding, while the overall colour scheme of green and purple further increases the ghastliness of the image.
  • For once that epithet is justified and is more than a convenient journalistic label to ramp up the ghastliness of any given tragedy.
  • It was physically demanding but there was no repeat of the ghastliness of Wednesday.


Middle English: from obsolete gast 'terrify', from Old English gǣstan, of Germanic origin; related to ghost. The gh spelling is by association with ghost. The sense 'objectionable' dates from the mid 19th century.

  • aghast from Late Middle English:

    Gast (originally gaestan) was an Old English word meaning ‘frighten or terrify’. It was still being used in this sense in Shakespeare's day: ‘Or whether gasted by the noise I made, Full suddenly he fled’ (King Lear). This gave rise to agast, which had the same meaning. The spelling aghast (probably influenced by the spelling of ghost) was originally Scottish but became generally used after 1700. Ghastly (Middle English) comes from the same word. The sense ‘objectionable’ dates from the mid 19th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ghast·ly

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