from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Inspiring awe.
  • adjective Expressing awe.
  • adjective Slang Remarkable; outstanding.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Inspiring awe; awful: as, an awesome sight.
  • Evidencing or expressive of terror.
  • Also spelled awsome.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Causing awe; appalling; awful.
  • adjective Expressive of awe or terror.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Causing awe or terror; inspiring wonder or excitement.
  • adjective colloquial Excellent, exciting, remarkable.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective inspiring awe or admiration or wonder


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Early Modern English 1590-1600, from awe +‎ -some. Compare Old English eġeful ("fearful, inspiring awe").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word awesome.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • OK, I know its use as a colloquial synonym of 'excellent' has been around since the early 80's, but I still need a word that only means 'inducing terror or unbounded awe' because when I get that feeling (which happens more often than you'd think), using an adjective that implies anything less would just sacrilegiously cheapen the experience.

    So, my two euros (since pennies aren't worth much these days): If your breath hasn't been taken away or your perception of reality hasn't been turned on its head or you aren't quaking with terror, then perhaps what you've encountered is something merely hawesome. :)

    December 8, 2006

  • I see your predicament, pedalinfaith. awe-inspiring just doesn't have quite the same ring--gets the job done, but it even sounds a little cliché. Hmm, a better substitute isn't coming to me. I say spite the masses and continue using it as you always have :)

    January 6, 2007

  • I use it both ways myself.

    January 12, 2007

  • Used by 'dummies' who don't know the true meaning of the word! I assume some 'cleb' used it on TV and then all the 'sheep' took it up?

    October 9, 2009

  • @LiteralMinded's @VisualThesaurus column on "awesome/awful/awe"--and rollercoasters! (paywall)

    June 10, 2010

  • David Tua, a famous boxer here in NZ, once asked for an "O for awesome" on Wheel of Fortune. And that was the main part of the game where you can only choose consonants.

    April 10, 2011

  • Tua can play at that game!

    April 11, 2011

  • Well I can see why a Nw Zlndr would be desperately craving any kind of vowel.

    April 11, 2011

  • Maybe he could use a vowelhound?

    April 12, 2011

  • Overused word.

    August 22, 2011

  • Have you ever wondered why 'full of awe' is the opposite of aw(e)ful? Awesome is an odd awe-sum! Aw(e)-shucks! It appears we have a limited capacity for awe. How awful!! We are so awe-struck, overawed and abawed!

    August 23, 2011