Definition of awful in English:



  • 1Very bad or unpleasant.

    ‘the place smelled awful’
    ‘I look awful in a swimsuit’
    ‘an awful speech’
    • ‘The wider one's sampling of a genre, the more abysmally awful stuff one encounters.’
    • ‘Injuries have hurt the offense a bit so far, and the pitching has been poor but not awful.’
    • ‘Not only does it look awful but it smells dreadful.’
    • ‘She finished this awful speech and looked at me triumphantly.’
    • ‘The speeches can sometimes be awful but his was very amusing.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Most made-for-TV animation is pretty bad, with uneven animation, awful scripts, and poor execution.’
    • ‘The problem is then he turned around and went to Columbia University on Wednesday and gave an awful speech on the economy.’
    • ‘Aside from that, I thought most of the speeches were pretty 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.’
    • ‘Sure, the acting is laughably awful and the dialogue is unintentionally hilarious.’
    • ‘Such were the things I told myself to get through that awful speech.’
    • ‘It was awful, and it cheapened the brand, if a brand existed.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Cabbages are green, taste awful, and make lousy pets.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But above all it is the players who must be held accountable for this awful, pathetic display.’
    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. 1.1Extremely shocking; horrific.
      ‘awful, bloody images’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘One might object that Elizabethan and Jacobean Justice was every bit as cruel and bloody as the awful spectacle that Moryson witnessed.’
      • ‘In a strange sense this event helped to bring home that awful atrocity.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘During that time, however, some awful atrocities were perpetrated by the IRA.’
      • ‘I'm tired of writing about the awful atrocities carried out in the name of Christianity, decency, or family values.’
      • ‘On August 19, 1942, the Marines engaged the enemy in an awful, bloody battle.’
      • ‘I am human because I feel pain when I hear or read about these awful crimes, the perpetrators don't give a damn.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The awful sight of the bloody lieutenant writhing around on the ground was enough to sober him up from his delusional state.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Something so dreadful, so awful, so horrifying, that Miiken could not stand the sight of it.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Not every bad thing that happens, not even every awful, horrific thing, is necessarily traumatic.’
      • ‘She presided over a quiet part of Ireland, and though it was not without its problems, extremely awful things didn't often happen.’
      • ‘Is it just that the war isn't just, so that even small numbers of deaths in the war are awful atrocities?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The true origin of Valentine's Day is bloody awful, involving a saint and a massacre and gangsters and machine guns.’
      serious, grave, bad, terrible, dreadful, alarming, critical
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    2. 1.2(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’
      • ‘Not rooting against the Yankees, per se, but not feeling awful that Clemens was obviously going to be pulled from the game.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She felt altogether awful and wondered if the stress of her life had something to do with her physical sickness.’
      • ‘I feel awful that I'm sending my guest out into the rain alone for breakfast, but I'm certain he'll manage.’
      • ‘The last time I'd ridden 200 miles, I felt awful the next day, like I'd been hit by a truck.’
      • ‘We feel the negative judgment of others and consequently feel awful about ourselves.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It always left him feeling awful and despicable and very, terribly lonely.’
      • ‘Oh god, he looked awful…he looked so weak…and well, depressed.’
      • ‘I stood my neighbor up the night of the dance, and I felt awful about it.’
      • ‘Vinton still hovered over his wounded sister and felt extremely awful for shooting her.’
      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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  • 2[attributive] Used to emphasize the extent of something, especially something unpleasant or negative.

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

    • ‘The awful majesty of God now will not be in the way to hinder perfect freedom and intimacy in the enjoyment of God.’
    • ‘He is not always the evil, ghoulish, awful, frightening character that sometimes the Satanists would picture him to be.’
    • ‘How does God begin and carry forward his submissive prostration of the soul, before his awful justice?’
    • ‘They walk in awful splendor, regal yet.’
    awe-inspiring, awesome, impressive, amazing
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North American
  • [as submodifier] Awfully; very.

    ‘we're an awful long way from the main road’
    • ‘And yet those games of the early 80s seem awful quaint now, don't they?’
    • ‘Sounds awful touchy-feely, but sometimes the most revolutionary ideas are touchy-feely.’
    • ‘This case should be awful tough for a prosecutor to put on.’
    • ‘He has gotten awful buddy-buddy with them lately - maneuvering for the job?’
    • ‘This is an awful serious proposition… Let me argue it out for you.’
    • ‘The locals have been wondering for an awful long time now when he will get around to scoring for their club.’
    very, extremely, really, exceedingly, immensely, thoroughly, decidedly, terribly, frightfully, dreadfully, fearfully, exceptionally, uncommonly, remarkably, eminently, extraordinarily, most, positively, particularly
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Old English (see awe, -ful).