Definition of frightful in US English:



  • 1Very unpleasant, serious, or shocking.

    ‘there's been a frightful accident’
    • ‘Such truths, terrible frightful truths, cannot be whitewashed.’
    • ‘How could such a terrible, frightful thing happen?’
    • ‘She glared, gave out a frightful howl, and stomped off into the living room.’
    • ‘Returning from a picnic in Somerset, there was a frightful car accident.’
    • ‘Electromagnetic pollution, which has been described as a serious killer in the office, actually is not frightful at all, say experts.’
    • ‘She spoke quite candidly with me: ‘It was frightful, the way my husband threatened me.’’
    • ‘Terrific storms, heavy seas, and frightful squalls make the waters in this area hazardous for conventional shipping.’
    • ‘Going by eyewitnesses' accounts of this mysterious person's frightful appearance, he is referred to as ‘acid man’.’
    • ‘The frightful realities of life on the streets had had a devastating effect on John's health and despite his young age he suffered serious ill health.’
    • ‘The blood was pounding in his brain like an engine's throbbing; there was a frightful pain in the top of his skull, and he could hardly control his hands.’
    • ‘These children are on their way to two weeks of summer camp, but for many parents in this heavily Hispanic neighborhood that is a frightful thought.’
    • ‘He gave us words of comfort and said what happened in Spain was a frightful thing.’
    • ‘I was inspecting our latest front-runner, and, like so many others, finding frightful blemishes.’
    • ‘She became a constant visitor to the holy women of White Church, and looking beyond this world to the next, the frightful mortality around her seemed but a quickened passage to the world to come.’
    • ‘After a frightful glare she had directed to our corner during the French lesson, I had a good reason for thinking, ‘Here comes trouble.’’
    • ‘It was rather a harrowing scene and it grew more frightful the more the clouds rolled in.’
    • ‘I have to say she was very pretty, but the lady gave me a frightful look of disgust, and then she spoke.’
    • ‘A frightful accident occurred at the Gatehead Mill, Delph, Saddleworth yesterday afternoon.’
    • ‘Suddenly we became aware that through the incredible din a yet more frightful sound was coming.’
    • ‘Prepare for a competition of dire, hideous and frightful consequences.’
    horrible, gruesome, grisly, ghastly, hideous, grim, revolting, repulsive, disgusting, horrendous, grievous, dreadful, terrible, nasty, dire, unspeakable
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    1. 1.1informal Used for emphasis, especially of something bad.
      ‘her hair was a frightful mess’
      • ‘My only fear is that it's so easy to laugh at politicians and their idiot supporters that you risk forgetting how evil and stupid they really are, allowing them to stumble their way into a frightful mess we all end up having to pay for.’
      • ‘The entire room was a frightful mess.’
      • ‘I wouldn't quite say that, but dogs don't argue with you like people do, and they always make such a frightful fuss when they see you.’
      awful, very bad, terrible, dreadful, appalling, ghastly, nasty, abominable
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