Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Inspiring dread; terrible.
  • adj. Extremely unpleasant; distasteful or shocking: dreadful table manners; this dreadful heat.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Causing dread; bad.
  • n. A shocking or sensational crime.
  • n. A shocking or sensational report of a crime.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Full of dread or terror; fearful.
  • adj. Inspiring dread; impressing great fear; fearful; terrible.
  • adj. Inspiring awe or reverence; awful.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • I. Full of dread or fear.
  • Full of respect, honor, or veneration.
  • Exciting or attended by great dread, fear, or terror; terrible; formidable; direful: as, a dreadful storm; a dreadful invasion.
  • Awful; venerable; awe-inspiring.
  • Synonyms Fearful, Frightful, etc. (see awful); terrific, horrible, horrid, dire, direful, tremendous.
  • n. That which is fearful or terrible: used only in the phrases penny dreadful, shilling dreadful, to denote a tale of vulgar sensationalism sold at a small price, or a cheap sensational newspaper or periodical.

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

  • adj. very unpleasant
  • adj. causing fear or dread or terror
  • adj. exceptionally bad or displeasing

Etymologies

From Middle English dredful, dredeful, equivalent to dread +‎ -ful. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • It would be dreadful, _dreadful_, if Pegler began seeing ghosts, and turning hysterical.

    From out the Vasty Deep

  • "That I can't stand it, that I can't go on with it, that it is dreadful to me, -- _dreadful! _"

    The Lovely Lady

  • "Oh! would this long day, this dreadful, _dreadful_ waiting for -- _what_? ever come to an end?" she asked herself over and over again.

    Elsie's Kith and Kin

  • Death is, as one of the ancients observes, [Greek: to ton phoberon phoberotaton], _of dreadful things the most dreadful_: an evil, beyond which nothing can be threatened by sublunary power, or feared from human enmity or vengeance.

    The Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 03 The Rambler, Volume II

  • Cousin Helen, I've had such a dreadful, _dreadful_ time! "

    What Katy Did

  • He watched all his steps, and always spoke to him with an angry countenance; punishing him for what he called his dreadful rebellion against such a clement prince as the Stadtholder.

    The Black Tulip

  • He wrote that Catholic music is in dreadful shape.

    Needed: A Forward Look for Sacred Music

  • As I write this, Neil and Christine Hamilton, as if in dreadful warning to him, are appearing on Hole in the Wall.

    Edwina Currie, Bobby Davro and Lembit Opik

  • That the South lived in dreadful fear (and armed preparedness) of a slave revolt?

    Think Progress » Former GOP Congressman J.C. Watts: ‘Social programs’ are the ‘new slavery.’

  • But no less dreadful is the sense that for many years, the state of Israel has been squandering not only the lives of its children but also the miracle it experienced — the great and rare opportunity bestowed upon it by history, the opportunity to create an enlightened, decent, democratic state that would conduct itself according to Jewish and universal values.

    Unforgiven

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