[ US /ˈɑfəɫ, ˈɔfəɫ/ ]
[ UK /ˈɔːfə‍l/ ]
  1. extreme in degree or extent or amount or impact
    spent a frightful amount of money
    in a frightful hurry
  2. inspired by a feeling of fearful wonderment or reverence
    awful worshippers with bowed heads
    awed by the silence
  3. exceptionally bad or displeasing
    abominable workmanship
    a painful performance
    an unspeakable odor came sweeping into the room
    terrible handwriting
    dreadful manners
    an awful voice
    atrocious taste
  4. causing fear or dread or terror
    the awful war
    a fearful howling
    the dread presence of the headmaster
    dire news
    a terrible curse
    an awful risk
    a career or vengeance so direful that London was shocked
    horrendous explosions shook the city
    a dreadful storm
    polio is no longer the dreaded disease it once was
  5. inspiring awe or admiration or wonder
    the Grand Canyon is an awe-inspiring sight
    the awesome complexity of the universe
    New York is an amazing city
    this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath
    Westminster Hall's awing majesty, so vast, so high, so silent
  6. offensive or even (of persons) malicious
    in a nasty mood
    a nasty trick to pull
    a nasty shock
    Will he say nasty things at my funeral?
    a nasty smell
    a nasty accident
  1. used as intensifiers
    terribly interesting
    I'm awful sorry
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How To Use awful In A Sentence

  • This patronising voice with a whine and an awful regional accent was talking. Times, Sunday Times
  • by lawful/legal means. Lawful tends to be used in technical or literary contexts. The same is true of the opposites, unlawful and illegal, but illegal is used especially about criminal activities. Legal also means 'connected with the law':the US legal system.
  • It seems the awful practice of hazing is not just limited to college sororities and fraternities.
  • The Latin American brotherhood was a pretty awful in general, coming out of some deranged ideas of Simon Bolivar, and it was an extraordinarily awful thing during the Cold War. Matthew Yglesias » Carter on Gaza
  • The police had a good defence to the claims in false imprisonment and unlawful detention. Times, Sunday Times
  • ‘You took a pre-meditated, calculated and awful revenge,’ the judge told him.
  • The convention allows for lawful detention of children for the shortest possible period of time and as a matter of last resort.
  • I thought my deathly pale face made me look awful. The Sun
  • The thing the article doesn't mention in much detail, presumably because the writer isn't diabetic, is how awful hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) feels. SeeLight:
  • The whole downstairs of the house smelled something awful for two weeks.
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