1200–50; Middle English a
; replacing Old English egefull
awfulness, nounquasi-awful, adjectivequasi-awfully, adverbunawful, adjectiveunawfulness, noun
Can be confused
(see usage note at the current entry)
Although some object to any use of awful
in any sense not connected with a feeling of awe, both have been used in other senses for several centuries. Awful
as adverbial intensifiers—awful
—appear in the early 19th century, following much the same pattern as horribly
As an adverb awful
is less formal in tone than awfully.
In the sense “inspiring awe or fear” awesome
has largely replaced awful.