Definition of awful in English:



  • 1Very bad or unpleasant.

    ‘the place smelled awful’
    ‘I look awful in a swimsuit’
    ‘an awful speech’
    • ‘But on too many other things, he's been poor to awful - especially on class issues.’
    • ‘Laughably awful dialogue is liberally slathered onto the stock adventure setup and the characters' true natures are obvious from the start.’
    • ‘She finished this awful speech and looked at me triumphantly.’
    • ‘The problem is then he turned around and went to Columbia University on Wednesday and gave an awful speech on the economy.’
    • ‘It was awful, and it cheapened the brand, if a brand existed.’
    • ‘Most made-for-TV animation is pretty bad, with uneven animation, awful scripts, and poor execution.’
    • ‘Retaining so much creative advice from when I quit my terrible, awful job two months ago, we were able to draft his resignation letter in no time.’
    • ‘And so, as the film ended, I couldn't work out why what I watched seemed to be a well directed, interesting film, choked by awful dialogue and poor plotting.’
    • ‘The wider one's sampling of a genre, the more abysmally awful stuff one encounters.’
    • ‘The speeches can sometimes be awful but his was very amusing.’
    • ‘Aside from that, I thought most of the speeches were pretty awful.’
    • ‘Cabbages are green, taste awful, and make lousy pets.’
    • ‘Such were the things I told myself to get through that awful speech.’
    • ‘Injuries have hurt the offense a bit so far, and the pitching has been poor but not awful.’
    • ‘There were a few speeches, plus some awful, awful poetry and choral music.’
    • ‘I'm not sure what was the most laughably awful thing about this movie.’
    • ‘Not only does it look awful but it smells dreadful.’
    • ‘Taking one spoon full into my mouth sent me hurling towards the sink to spit out the awful substance that I had chosen to try and digest.’
    • ‘But above all it is the players who must be held accountable for this awful, pathetic display.’
    • ‘Sure, the acting is laughably awful and the dialogue is unintentionally hilarious.’
    very unpleasant, disgusting, nasty, terrible, dreadful, ghastly, horrid, horrible, vile, foul, abominable, appalling, atrocious, horrendous, hideous, offensive, objectionable, obnoxious, frightful, loathsome, revolting, repulsive, repellent, repugnant, odious, sickening, nauseating, nauseous
    very bad, poor, dreadful, terrible, frightful, atrocious, hopeless, inadequate, inferior, unsatisfactory, substandard, laughable, lamentable, execrable
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    1. 1.1 Extremely shocking; horrific.
      ‘awful, bloody images’
      • ‘Is it just that the war isn't just, so that even small numbers of deaths in the war are awful atrocities?’
      • ‘In a strange sense this event helped to bring home that awful atrocity.’
      • ‘The true origin of Valentine's Day is bloody awful, involving a saint and a massacre and gangsters and machine guns.’
      • ‘I'm tired of writing about the awful atrocities carried out in the name of Christianity, decency, or family values.’
      • ‘The awful sight of the bloody lieutenant writhing around on the ground was enough to sober him up from his delusional state.’
      • ‘I am human because I feel pain when I hear or read about these awful crimes, the perpetrators don't give a damn.’
      • ‘What was so tragic was to know that, through no fault of their own, they are caught up in the awful atrocities being carried out in their homeland.’
      • ‘One might object that Elizabethan and Jacobean Justice was every bit as cruel and bloody as the awful spectacle that Moryson witnessed.’
      • ‘Something so dreadful, so awful, so horrifying, that Miiken could not stand the sight of it.’
      • ‘At the time of writing, there is same optimism regarding an end to this bloody awful war that we should not be involved in, so I hope that our men and women can be saved and soon return to us.’
      • ‘On August 19, 1942, the Marines engaged the enemy in an awful, bloody battle.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘You committed some bloody awful crimes, I mean you burst into banks, you held guns to people's heads, you threatened them, you assaulted them.’
      • ‘Not every bad thing that happens, not even every awful, horrific thing, is necessarily traumatic.’
      • ‘During that time, however, some awful atrocities were perpetrated by the IRA.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She presided over a quiet part of Ireland, and though it was not without its problems, extremely awful things didn't often happen.’
      • ‘And it seemed to me that what he was trying to do was to link this dreadful, awful terrorist attack on the World Trade Center to his view of what was going on in the Middle East.’
      • ‘So everything is stage managed to make the awful, horrific attack something very special.’
      • ‘He wrote letters to congressmen telling them that something awful and ‘bloody’ had occurred.’
      serious, grave, bad, terrible, dreadful, alarming, critical
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    2. 1.2 (of a person) very unwell or troubled.
      ‘I felt awful for being so angry with him’
      ‘you look awful—you should go and lie down’
      • ‘Come lunch time and I felt really awful - had a terrible headache and just wanted to go home and go to bed.’
      • ‘I was rebounding and using an expanse of dates to distract my attention from how awful I really felt.’
      • ‘The last time I'd ridden 200 miles, I felt awful the next day, like I'd been hit by a truck.’
      • ‘Vinton still hovered over his wounded sister and felt extremely awful for shooting her.’
      • ‘We feel the negative judgment of others and consequently feel awful about ourselves.’
      • ‘She felt altogether awful and wondered if the stress of her life had something to do with her physical sickness.’
      • ‘Not rooting against the Yankees, per se, but not feeling awful that Clemens was obviously going to be pulled from the game.’
      • ‘I feel awful that I'm sending my guest out into the rain alone for breakfast, but I'm certain he'll manage.’
      • ‘I stood my neighbor up the night of the dance, and I felt awful about it.’
      • ‘The Boy and I were supposed to visit him this afternoon but I woke up sick and had to stay home, and now I feel awful for not going to see him.’
      • ‘It always left him feeling awful and despicable and very, terribly lonely.’
      • ‘Oh god, he looked awful…he looked so weak…and well, depressed.’
      ill, unwell, washed out, peaky
      remorseful, conscience-stricken, guilty, guilt-ridden, ashamed, chastened, contrite, sorry, full of regret, regretful, repentant, penitent, shamefaced, self-reproachful, apologetic
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  • 2attributive Used to emphasize the extent of something, especially something unpleasant or negative.

    ‘I've made an awful fool of myself’
    • ‘Some people find these birds to be an awful nuisance.’
    • ‘There's an awful risk of confusion for buyers.’
    • ‘I made an awful fool of myself.’
    • ‘It's still an awful burden.’
    • ‘But she had made an awful mess of it.’
    • ‘Though Jo had resolved never to marry, still she felt an awful loneliness as she wondered what direction her life should take.’
    • ‘Apparently he led his wife an awful dance.’
  • 3archaic Inspiring reverential wonder or fear.

    • ‘How does God begin and carry forward his submissive prostration of the soul, before his awful justice?’
    • ‘They walk in awful splendor, regal yet.’
    • ‘He is not always the evil, ghoulish, awful, frightening character that sometimes the Satanists would picture him to be.’
    • ‘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, amazing
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North American
  • as submodifier Awfully; very.

    ‘we're an awful long way from the motorway’
    • ‘Sounds awful touchy-feely, but sometimes the most revolutionary ideas are touchy-feely.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘The locals have been wondering for an awful long time now when he will get around to scoring for their club.’
    • ‘This case should be awful tough for a prosecutor to put on.’
    • ‘This is an awful serious proposition… Let me argue it out for you.’
    very, extremely, really, exceedingly, immensely, thoroughly, decidedly, terribly, frightfully, dreadfully, fearfully, exceptionally, uncommonly, remarkably, eminently, extraordinarily, most, positively, particularly
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  • an awful lot

    • A very large amount; a great deal.

      ‘we've had an awful lot of letters’
      • ‘I have just spent an awful lot of money on a brand new PC, which will be coming in the next couple of weeks.’
      • ‘What I try to do when I act is think a lot, an awful lot, before I show up on the set.’
      • ‘It is awesome to play in the World Cup anywhere, but to play in a game close to my family and friends means an awful lot.’
      • ‘There was an awful lot to learn and a great deal of pressure, but he coped with it well.’
      • ‘There is an awful lot of detail in this report and I am sure it is all of interest to readers.’
      • ‘I feel that - it is a very major thing, and obviously, an awful lot of hard work goes into it.’
      • ‘This is stupid and has caused an awful lot of congestion where there previously wasn't that much.’
      • ‘This is more of an update than a post and won't be of enormous interest to an awful lot of you, I'm sure.’
      • ‘We had an awful lot of people and we couldn't get anything else on the field.’
      • ‘Slightly out on the timing, but an awful lot of Jack Aubrey seems to be there.’
      • ‘You can spend an awful lot of time as an addict, an awful lot of useless time, debating such stuff.’
      • ‘Terminally ill people require an awful lot of care and attention and therefore cost a lot of money.’
      • ‘If this fight is not to happen, the Las Vegas decision will have to be ratified by an awful lot of other people.’
      • ‘As a result, I do seem to have ended up knowing an awful lot of detail about an awful lot of blogs.’
      • ‘New employees would need an awful lot of shares to catch up with longer-serving workers.’
      • ‘There are a lot of people who have put an awful lot into the development of this school.’
      • ‘I'm not really sure any more who reads this thing, other than, it's an awful lot of people.’
      • ‘We have done an awful lot to get rid of a lot of the forms we have got and also the policies.’
      • ‘In the end it was down to an awful lot of luck and an awful lot of serendipity.’
      • ‘There's an awful lot of research that's required still in order to optimise the process.’


Old English (see awe, -ful).