Why was clemency trending last week?


[aw-fuh l] /ˈɔ fəl/
extremely bad; unpleasant; ugly:
awful paintings; an awful job.
inspiring fear; dreadful; terrible:
an awful noise.
solemnly impressive; inspiring awe:
the awful majesty of alpine peaks.
full of awe; reverential.
extremely dangerous, risky, injurious, etc.:
That was an awful fall she had. He took an awful chance by driving here so fast.
Informal. very; extremely:
He did an awful good job of painting the barn. It's awful hot in here.
Origin of awful
1200-50; Middle English a(g)heful, aueful; see awe, -ful; replacing Old English egefull dreadful
Related forms
awfulness, noun
quasi-awful, adjective
quasi-awfully, adverb
unawful, adjective
unawfulness, noun
Can be confused
awful, awesome, offal (see usage note at the current entry)
Usage note
Although some object to any use of awful or awfully in any sense not connected with a feeling of awe, both have been used in other senses for several centuries. Awful and awfully as adverbial intensifiers—awful(ly)hot; awful(ly)cold—appear in the early 19th century, following much the same pattern as horribly anddreadfully. As an adverb awful is less formal in tone than awfully. In the sense “inspiring awe or fear” awesome has largely replaced awful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
Cite This Source
Examples from the web for awful
  • Everything was quiet except for the awful spoon against the awful pot.
  • The tastes of the viewing public is just disgraceful with all the awful, awful reality shows that get higher ratings.
  • His eyes were awful, all lit up and burning.
  • Like a variation of those awful commercials, they've fallen, but they can get up.
  • But for the species—including our own—who occupy Earth's surface, the planet's vitality can be awful as well as awesome.
  • There's been an awful lot of activity in the past few months.
  • Fisher found his cabin too hot, the menus elaborate, the food awful.
  • Murky flashbacks provide a progressively more detailed picture of the awful crime from generations ago.
  • Yes, malaria is awful.
  • The cellular damage takes an awful toll.
British Dictionary definitions for awful


very bad; unpleasant
(archaic) inspiring reverence or dread
(archaic) overcome with awe; reverential
(not standard) (intensifier): an awful cold day
Derived Forms
awfulness, noun
Word Origin
C13: see awe, -ful
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for awful

c.1300, agheful "worthy of respect or fear," from aghe, an earlier form of awe (n.), + -ful. Replaced Old English egefull. Weakened sense "very bad" is from 1809; weakened sense of "exceedingly" is by 1818.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Slang definitions & phrases for awful



Extremely unpleasant or objectionable


Very; intensely: I feel awful bad about that

Related Terms


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for awful

Many English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for awful

Scrabble Words With Friends

Quotes with awful

Nearby words for awful