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[ter-uh-buh l] /ˈtɛr ə bəl/
distressing; severe:
a terrible winter.
extremely bad; horrible:
terrible coffee; a terrible movie.
exciting terror, awe, or great fear; dreadful; awful.
formidably great:
a terrible responsibility.
Origin of terrible
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Latin terribilis, equivalent to terr(ēre) to frighten + -ibilis -ible
Related forms
terribleness, noun
unterrible, adjective
3. fearful, frightful, appalling, dire, horrible, horrifying, terrifying, horrendous, horrid. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for terrible
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Soon the news of his terrible deed spread throughout the land.

    Ancient Man Hendrik Willem van Loon
  • But then, I always was a terrible poor judge of human nature.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • She was terrible as an army with banners; fair as the sea or the sunset.

    The Bacillus of Beauty Harriet Stark
  • The darkness of a terrible storm hid it from the eye of man.

    Ancient Man Hendrik Willem van Loon
  • It is terrible to see how demoralizing our contact is to all sorts and conditions of men.

    The Soul of a People H. Fielding
British Dictionary definitions for terrible


very serious or extreme: a terrible cough
(informal) of poor quality; unpleasant or bad: a terrible meal, a terrible play
causing terror
causing awe: the terrible nature of God
Derived Forms
terribleness, noun
Word Origin
C15: from Latin terribilis, from terrēre to terrify
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 terrible

early 15c., "causing terror, frightful," from Old French terrible (12c.), from Latin terribilis "frightful," from terrere "fill with fear," from PIE root *tres- "to tremble" (cf. Sanskrit trasati "trembles," Avestan tarshta "feared, revered," Greek treëin "to tremble," Lithuanian triseti "to tremble," Old Church Slavonic treso "I shake," Middle Irish tarrach "timid"). Weakened sense of "very bad, awful" is first attested 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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