Definition of nightmare in US English:



  • 1A frightening or unpleasant dream.

    ‘I had nightmares after watching the horror movie’
    • ‘With a degree in psychology behind him, he now practises psychotherapy in Colorado with an inside track on dreams and nightmares.’
    • ‘I woke up this morning straight from a bad dream, a nightmare, if you will.’
    • ‘I can hardly believe I slept so well, no dreams, nightmares or visions to contemplate this morning.’
    • ‘Tell me about the dreams, the nightmares that you had for awhile.’
    • ‘When I finally fell asleep, it was restless, and filled with uneasy dreams and nightmares.’
    • ‘I don't dream a lot but when I do the dreams are often nightmares.’
    • ‘However, some dreams are nightmares and when you're having a nightmare they seem to go on and on and on.’
    • ‘Cody was one of those that dreams nightmares and her nightmare was beginning to unfold right before her eyes.’
    • ‘As a child I used to dream horrific nightmares about nuclear war.’
    • ‘He couldn't quite remember that face, the same face that was so vivid and clear in dreams and nightmares.’
    • ‘Meanwhile this guy is having nightmares here, dreaming that alligators and lions are chasing him.’
    • ‘Casey sleeps deeply, for once having good dreams and not the nightmares that she is accustomed to.’
    • ‘They had to watch their children having nightmares, being frightened of being alone and being scared of coming into an empty house.’
    • ‘The nightmares had overrun his dreams again, leaving a sour ache in his soul, and he'd gone and taken it out on her.’
    • ‘Could it have something to do with his dreams and nightmares about when he was a child?’
    • ‘It is interesting that she has nightmares rather than sweet dreams in Chinese.’
    • ‘He suggests this, for example, in the many places where he speaks of waking up out of our dreams or nightmares.’
    • ‘So we see that most of these children and young men continue to have bad dreams and nightmares sometimes as often as two or three times a week.’
    • ‘In a further similarity to an ad break, my short bursts of sleep were filled with countless little dreams and nightmares, most of which I remember.’
    • ‘Sleep was something she might not get because her dreams can become nightmares.’
    bad dream, night terrors
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    1. 1.1 A terrifying or very unpleasant experience or prospect.
      ‘the nightmare of racial hatred’
      ‘an astronaut's worst nightmare is getting detached during an extravehicle activity’
      • ‘A few hours later, after having been dragged out of the hotel at gunpoint, my worst nightmare had come true.’
      • ‘Before I could do anything else, my worst nightmare happened, right before my eyes.’
      • ‘Also, we are able to utilise him straight away to prevent simple situations from developing into nightmares.’
      • ‘And yesterday came confirmation that their worst nightmare had been realised.’
      • ‘It is Danny's worst nightmare: the encounter his fear had tried so hard to warn him about.’
      • ‘But he has avoided his own worst nightmare, which is that of missing life entirely.’
      • ‘I gulped as I gently set the phone back into the cradle and turn to face my worst nightmare.’
      • ‘However, when a woman gives birth her worst nightmare would be to have her child kidnapped from her.’
      • ‘At one stage the traffic in all directions came to a complete standstill which is our worst nightmare.’
      • ‘It was simply asked that she account for her actions at a public inquiry and the situation turned into a nightmare.’
      • ‘You see if I don't get better quickly he will have to face his worst nightmare.’
      • ‘It's your worst nightmare getting turned over in one of these games but maybe it'll make one or two of our guys sit and think a little bit.’
      • ‘His worst nightmare came true the day before when he spotted some of his sheep frothing at the mouth.’
      • ‘You know this is a Mother and Wife's worst nightmare ever, and both nightmares came to life in one single day.’
      • ‘The whole world thinking that he is a pathetic loser is pretty much his worst nightmare.’
      • ‘Being in a plane doesn't bother me a bit, but being in a crawlspace is my worst nightmare.’
      • ‘The twentieth century was scarred by the nightmare of Hitler's dream for the Aryan race.’
      • ‘In denying him his right to be buried in Jerusalem, the Israelis have created their worst nightmare.’
      • ‘So for somebody to be alleging that he abuses kids, that's got to be his worst nightmare.’
      • ‘When I looked down at the bottom of the cliff it was my worst nightmare.’
      ordeal, horror, torment, trial
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    2. 1.2 A 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’
      • ‘Brad was my ex-boyfriend and the worst nightmare I have ever had to deal with.’
      • ‘It was hard enough for the print media to deal with, and a nightmare for radio.’
      • ‘Outdated non-computerised files will lead to compliance nightmares.’
      • ‘Class sizes rose and clashing tests made drawing up an examination timetable a nightmare.’
      • ‘Though I did primary school teaching I forgot what a nightmare these tests are for parents.’
      • ‘If your dialog box gets at all complicated, it can lead to a maintenance nightmare.’
      • ‘For many it can be a communications nightmare on top of an already challenging situation.’
      • ‘Such duplication of effort was not only a waste of resources but also a potential nightmare for those waiting on the test results.’
      • ‘We take a simple consumption tax and turn it into a complicated nightmare.’
      • ‘We are so concerned because if we don t get approval it will be a nightmare over the next five years.’
      • ‘To act as if it's no big deal is to ignore the organizational nightmare involved in creating a large-scale event such as this.’
      • ‘He was every kid's worst nightmare for an uncle so feel sorry for Elissa - he was her uncle.’
      • ‘That situation could have been a nightmare, but his mum views us both as surrogate daughters and is very easy to get along with.’
      • ‘Keeping up and dealing with the latest toy crazes can be a nightmare.’
      ordeal, horror, torment, trial
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Middle English (denoting a female evil spirit thought to lie upon and suffocate sleepers): from night + Old English mære ‘incubus’.