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[frahyt-fuh l] /ˈfraɪt fəl/
such as to cause fright; dreadful, terrible, or alarming:
A frightful howl woke us.
horrible, shocking, or revolting:
The storm did frightful damage.
Informal. unpleasant; disagreeable:
We had a frightful time.
Informal. very great; extreme:
That actor is very talented but a frightful ham.
Origin of frightful
1200-50; Middle English; see fright, -ful
Related forms
frightfully, adverb
frightfulness, noun
unfrightful, adjective
1. fearful, awful. 2. hideous, dread, horrid, ghastly; gruesome.
1, 2. delightful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for frightful
  • The weather across the nation for much of this winter has been frightful, as have heating bills.
  • She lives below ground level, and it took me a frightful lot of effort to climb one flight of stairs and leave the building.
  • The costumes are a mixed business-some excellent, some frightful.
  • She was photographed cycling round the roads in frightful off-the-peg frocks.
  • It is really frightful to imagine the ways the war might go from that point.
  • With all the rioting that's been occurring the country may become a frightful place to reside in within the near future.
  • And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt.
  • State-enforced amnesia suppressed immediately the entire atrocity with frightful efficiency.
  • The weather doesn't have to be frightful for a winter holiday celebration.
  • Viewed through the prism of geopolitics, the world is indeed a frightful place.
British Dictionary definitions for frightful


very alarming, distressing, or horrifying
unpleasant, annoying, or extreme: a frightful hurry
Derived Forms
frightfulness, noun
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
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Word Origin and History for frightful

mid-13c., "timid;" c.1600 "alarming;" from fright + -ful. In common with most -ful adjectives, it once had both an active and passive sense. Meaning "dreadful, horrible, shocking" (often hyperbolic) is attested from c.1700; Johnson noted it as "a cant word among women for anything unpleasing." Related: Frightfully.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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