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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 frightfully
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They'll orate over him, and they'll get frightfully cross for a fortnight, and then they'll do nothing.

    Changing Winds St. John G. Ervine
  • Sara was suffering so frightfully after his trip that he took his morphine.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • What a frightfully clever person you are, James—a regular detective!

    The Whirligig of Time Wayland Wells Williams
  • "It's frightfully against my conscience," faltered Loveday doubtfully.

  • I must stab the beautiful dream of a noble youth, but even this—frightfully painful for me as it is—I do for you.

  • frightfully roared the tempest, the boat could no longer be governed.

    The Oriental Story Book Wilhelm Hauff
  • It made me frightfully angry when Mother told me, but still I'm glad for I know what line to take now.

    A Young Girl's Diary An Anonymous Young Girl
  • My brother, you know, is very clever; oh yes, frightfully clever!'

    Robert Elsmere Mrs. Humphry Ward
  • I lived with her more than two years and she was frightfully strict about men.

British Dictionary definitions for frightfully


(intensifier): I'm frightfully glad


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 frightfully



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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