Definition of penny dreadful in US English:

penny dreadful


  • A cheap, sensational comic or storybook.

    as modifier ‘penny dreadful comics’
    • ‘The result is a world where social space is overtaken by anonymous, unavoidable background noise - a quotidian narration that even in its more interesting moments rarely rises above the tone of a penny dreadful.’
    • ‘He is a man who writes what used to be called penny dreadfuls.’
    • ‘The image was burned, like something out of a Victorian penny dreadful, into my mind.’
    • ‘Public libraries didn't save copies of comic books, penny dreadfuls, or pop CDs either, and so much of that incredibly rich history is hard to find too.’
    • ‘He notes that before mass media, tabloids, broadsheets and even penny dreadfuls, the scandal and the darkness of earlier times would be reported by folk ballads sung by a travelling musician.’
    • ‘To a Victorian audience it would have been even more moving, for on close inspection she is no Greek maiden, but a late-Victorian English rose whose predicament is straight from the pages of a penny dreadful or pocket novella.’
    • ‘When they think of me they think of horror so they send me every little penny dreadful that comes down the pipe or that the readers send upstairs, and usually it's just going along with the current trend.’
    • ‘In the early 1900s cinema going was similarly demonised, as were the adventure paperbacks known as penny dreadfuls.’
    • ‘At one end of the scale, penny dreadfuls carried police court news of murder, rape and violent crime, which must have brightened many a dull life.’
    • ‘In Anthony Trollope's short story The Spotted Dog, one of the characters visits the editor of a Victorian penny dreadful in his office.’
    • ‘Popular literature offered the penny dreadful and a profusion of magazines that published novels and other literary work serially.’
    • ‘Maybe he read the Bible or just had a greasy collection of penny dreadfuls.’
    • ‘From what she could gather, there had been more scandal in that village during the past two months than would fill a dozen penny dreadfuls.’
    • ‘Don't they do that in practically every second penny dreadful that you read?’


Late 19th century: so named because the original cost was one penny.


penny dreadful

/ˈˌpenē ˈdredfəl/