Definitions

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

  • adj. Inspiring awe: an awesome thunderstorm.
  • adj. Expressing awe: stood in awesome silence before the ancient ruins.
  • adj. Slang Remarkable; outstanding: "a totally awesome arcade game” ( Los Angeles Times).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

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

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

  • adj. inspiring awe or admiration or wonder

Etymologies

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

Examples

Comments

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  • 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

  • Overused word.

    August 22, 2011

  • Maybe he could use a vowelhound?

    April 12, 2011

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

    April 11, 2011

  • Tua can play at that game!

    April 11, 2011

  • 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

  • @LiteralMinded's @VisualThesaurus column on "awesome/awful/awe"--and rollercoasters! (paywall) http://bit.ly/bEoLxs

    June 10, 2010

  • 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

  • I use it both ways myself.

    January 12, 2007

  • 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

  • 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