Definition of nightmare in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈnītˌmer/


1A frightening or unpleasant dream: I had nightmares after watching the horror movie
More example sentences
  • I can hardly believe I slept so well, no dreams, nightmares or visions to contemplate this morning.
  • Cody was one of those that dreams nightmares and her nightmare was beginning to unfold right before her eyes.
  • He suggests this, for example, in the many places where he speaks of waking up out of our dreams or nightmares.
bad dream, night terrors
archaic incubus
1.1A terrifying or very unpleasant experience or prospect: the nightmare of racial hatred an astronaut’s worst nightmare is getting detached during an extravehicle activity
More example sentences
  • Before I could do anything else, my worst nightmare happened, right before my eyes.
  • But he has avoided his own worst nightmare, which is that of missing life entirely.
  • In denying him his right to be buried in Jerusalem, the Israelis have created their worst nightmare.
1.2A person, thing, or situation that is very difficult to deal with: buying wine can be a nightmare if you don’t know enough about it
More example sentences
  • We take a simple consumption tax and turn it into a complicated nightmare.
  • Though I did primary school teaching I forgot what a nightmare these tests are for parents.
  • That situation could have been a nightmare, but his mum views us both as surrogate daughters and is very easy to get along with.


Middle English (denoting a female evil spirit thought to lie upon and suffocate sleepers): from night + Old English mære 'incubus'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: night·mare

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