Definitions

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

  • adj. Causing disgust or shock; horrifying.
  • adj. Causing fright; terrifying.
  • adj. Informal Excessive; extreme: a frightful liar.
  • adj. Informal Disagreeable; distressing: frightful weather.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. : Full of fright; affrighted; frightened.
  • adj. Full of that which causes fright; exciting alarm; impressing terror; shocking; as, a frightful chasm, or tempest; a frightful appearance.
  • adj. Used as an intensifier

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Full of fright; affrighted; frightened.
  • adj. Full of that which causes fright; exciting alarm; impressing terror; shocking.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Full of occasion for fright; causing or apt to excite alarm or terror; terrible; dreadful: as, a frightful chasm; a frightful tempest.
  • Intolerable; shocking; hideous.
  • Full of terror; fearful; alarmed.
  • Synonyms Dreadful, Fearful, etc. (see awful); alarming, terrific, horrible, shocking.

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

  • adj. extreme in degree or extent or amount or impact
  • adj. provoking horror
  • adj. extremely distressing

Etymologies

From Middle English frightful ("afraid"), from Old English forhtful ("fainthearted, timorous"), equivalent to fright +‎ -ful. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "Angelica, finding herself alone, abandoned in this frightful solitude, remained without movement, as if stupefied, with hands joined and eyes turned towards heaven, till at last, pouring forth a torrent of tears, she exclaimed: 'Cruel fortune, have you not yet exhausted your rage against me?'"
    - Thomas Bulfinch, 'Age of Fable'.

    September 19, 2009