extremely bad; unpleasant; ugly:
awful paintings; an awful job.
inspiring fear; dreadful; terrible:
an awful noise.
solemnly impressive; inspiring awe:
the awful majesty of alpine peaks.
full of awe; reverential.
extremely dangerous, risky, injurious, etc.:
That was an awful fall she had. He took an awful chance by driving here so fast.
Informal. very; extremely:
He did an awful good job of painting the barn. It’s awful hot in here.
Contemporary Examples

The awful part of such thinking is the failure of the imagination.
Broadway’s Comeback Kid Kevin Sessums November 1, 2011

Death and the awful abode of lost souls, whither my weakness long ago had sent him, had changed him for every other eye but mine.
Read ‘The King in Yellow,’ the ‘True Detective’ Reference That’s the Key to the Show Robert W. Chambers February 19, 2014

For that, we need great mentoring resources, an eagerness to fail and learn from those failures, and an awful lot of time.
The Myth of Innate Genius David Shenk May 12, 2011

Indeed, for most of these voters, the past year has been an awful one.
Obama’s Secret Power Base Joel Kotkin December 31, 2009

A powerful new documentary that premiered at Tribeca captures the awful lives of bullied and tormented kids across America.
The Bully Project Director Talks About Documenting Bullying in American Schools Louis Jordan April 29, 2011

Historical Examples

She looked at me awful wishful when she said that, an’ I nodded my head ag’in.
Against Odds Lawrence L. Lynch

Phœbus protect me, but this is an awful place to speak of those who sleep.
Philothea Lydia Maria Child

You see these poor people are in the most awful sort of trouble now.
A Campfire Girl’s Test of Friendship Jane L. Stewart

It was awful to Harriett that her father should be ill, lying there at their mercy.
Life and Death of Harriett Frean May Sinclair

It’s awful to be chained, especially for a dog like me that loves his freedom.
Beautiful Joe Marshall Saunders

very bad; unpleasant
(archaic) inspiring reverence or dread
(archaic) overcome with awe; reverential
(not standard) (intensifier): an awful cold day

c.1300, agheful “worthy of respect or fear,” from aghe, an earlier form of awe (n.), + -ful. Replaced Old English egefull. Weakened sense “very bad” is from 1809; weakened sense of “exceedingly” is by 1818.


Extremely unpleasant or objectionable


Very; intensely: I feel awful bad about that

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