Definitions

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

  • n. A dream arousing feelings of intense fear, horror, and distress.
  • n. An event or experience that is intensely distressing.
  • n. A demon or spirit once thought to plague sleeping people.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A female demon or monster, thought to plague people while they slept and cause a feeling of suffocation and terror during sleep.
  • n. A very bad or frightening dream.
  • n. Any bad, miserable, difficult or terrifying situation or experience that arouses anxiety, terror, agony or great displeasure.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A fiend or incubus formerly supposed to cause trouble in sleep.
  • n. A trerrifying or oppressive dream characterized by a sense of helplessness in the face of danger, extreme uneasiness or discomfort (as of weight on the chest or stomach, impossibility of motion or speech, etc.) or extreme anxiety, from which one wakes in a troubled state of mind.
  • n. Any overwhelming, oppressive, or terrifying experience resembling a nightmare{2} especially in the inability to escape from an unpleasant situation.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An incubus or evil spirit that oppresses people during sleep.
  • n. An oppressed state during sleep, accompanied by a feeling of intense fear, horror, or anxiety, or of inability to escape from some threatened danger or from pursuing phantoms or monsters. Also called incubus.
  • n. Any overpowering, oppressive, or stupefying influence.

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

  • n. a situation resembling a terrifying dream
  • n. a terrifying or deeply upsetting dream

Etymologies

Middle English, a female demon that afflicts sleeping people : night, night; see night + mare, goblin (from Old English; see mer- in Indo-European roots).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English nightemare, niȝtmare, equivalent to night +‎ mare (“evil spirit believed to afflict a sleeping person”). Cognate with Scots nichtmare, nichtmeer ("nightmare"), Dutch nachtmerrie ("nightmare"), Middle Low German nachtmār ("nightmare"), German Nachtmahr ("nightmare"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • To expect politicians to correct this nightmare is a fantasy.

    Oh, Poor Judge Bybee! « Antiwar.com Blog

  • If MAC is not allowed to protest, it has threatened to turn the day into what it called a "nightmare."

    Muslim Group Applies to Protest Royal Wedding

  • It's also helpful to realize, say sleep researchers, that what you call a nightmare may or may not actually be one.

    Janet Kinosian: A Short Guide To Understanding Your Nightmares

  • The three Duke lacrosse players accused of sexual assault in an explosive case have now been cleared, all charges dropped, the young men speaking out, marking the end of what one called a nightmare that lasted more than a year.

    CNN Transcript Apr 11, 2007

  • On the diplomatic front, the U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan, is pushing the Security Council to come up with a plan by the end of the week to end what he calls the nightmare for civilians in Israel and Lebanon.

    CNN Transcript Aug 10, 2006

  • He fled abroad and landowner Maria Burt was left to pay for their removal in what she called a nightmare experience.

    BBC News - Home

  • But higher education proved to be no respite for the desperate teen, which he described as a "nightmare."

    NYDN Rss

  • Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Wednesday he could have not have imagined what he called the nightmare that unfolded in Iraq but still ...

    Iraq Updates - Latest News

  • In an editorial, the paper considers the fallout for India from what it calls the nightmare on Wall Street, and says things aren't too bleak, with an industrial growth rate of 7.1 per cent in July and the global price of oil falling below $95.

    CFR.org -

  • Well, obviously this beaurocratic nightmare is not limited to the infamous Sheriff and his thugs.

    Coyote Blog » Blog Archive » Mistaken Identity

Comments

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  • Artie sometimes has these about loosing Jim.

    October 20, 2012

  • An lore, demonic creature or dread spirit that takes the form of a black horse that can breathe fire, and sometimes fire comes out of their hooves as well. Their eyes glow red. Sometimes, the nightmare is said to be able to fly (even though they have no wings), and sometimes, the nightmare likes to eat human flesh. They can communicate with their riders through telepathy, and they can travel in other dimensions as well. In some legends, it represents all that is evil in the land and not necessarily from the underworld.

    The Nightmare is sometimes referred to as a hell horse or a demon horse. They will serve as mounts for powerful undead, demons, and other evil creatures.
    (from Mystical Creature A Day)

    May 30, 2008

  • -- Gave it to them on a hot plate, Myles Crawford said, the whole bloody history.

    Nightmare from which you will never awake.

    Joyce, Ulysses, 7

    January 2, 2007