Also found in: Thesaurus, Idioms.


1. Extremely bad or unpleasant; terrible: had an awful day at the office.
2. Commanding awe: "this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath" (Herman Melville).
3. Filled with awe, especially:
a. Filled with or displaying great reverence.
b. Obsolete Afraid.
4. Formidable in nature or extent: an awful burden; an awful risk.
adv. Informal
Extremely; very: was awful sick.

[Middle English aweful, awe-inspiring, blend of awe, awe; see awe, and *ayfull, awful (from Old English egefull : ege, dread + -full, -ful).]

aw′ful·ly adv.
aw′ful·ness n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.awfulness - a quality of extreme unpleasantnessawfulness - a quality of extreme unpleasantness
unpleasantness - the quality of giving displeasure; "the recent unpleasantness of the weather"
frightfulness - the quality of being frightful
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


[ˈɔːfʊlnɪs] N
1. (= dreadfulness) → lo terrible
the awfulness of the situation kept coming back to himlo terrible de la situación se le venía insistentemente a la cabeza
he had to serve 18 years because of the awfulness of his crimessus crímenes fueron tan horrorosos que tuvo que servir una condena de 18 años
2. (= poor quality) it gets mentioned, if only for its awfulnessse habla de eso, aunque sólo sea por lo malo que es
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


n (of situation)Schrecklichkeit f, → Furchtbarkeit f; (of person)abscheuliche Art, Abscheulichkeit f; we were shocked by the awfulness of it allwir waren von der Schrecklichkeit or Furchtbarkeit des Ganzen überwältigt
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


(ˈoːful) adjective
1. very great. an awful rush.
2. very bad. This book is awful; an awful experience.
3. severe. an awful headache.
ˈawfully adverb
very. awfully silly.
ˈawfulness noun
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.
References in classic literature ?
Where attempts have not been made to reconcile the two moralities, they may be described as follows:--All is GOOD in the noble morality which proceeds from strength, power, health, well-constitutedness, happiness, and awfulness; for, the motive force behind the people practising it is "the struggle for power." The antithesis "good and bad" to this first class means the same as "noble" and "despicable." "Bad" in the master-morality must be applied to the coward, to all acts that spring from weakness, to the man with "an eye to the main chance," who would forsake everything in order to live.
"And do you imagine he realizes all the awfulness of my position?" Dolly resumed.
'What I mean is,' pursued Georgiana, 'that Ma being so endowed with awfulness, and Pa being so endowed with awfulness, and there being so much awfulness everywhere--I mean, at least, everywhere where I am--perhaps it makes me who am so deficient in awfulness, and frightened at it--I say it very badly--I don't know whether you can understand what I mean?'
It showed the familiar scene of the street with the distinctness of mid-day, but also with the awfulness that is always imparted to familiar objects by an unaccustomed light The wooden houses, with their jutting storeys and quaint gable-peaks; the doorsteps and thresholds with the early grass springing up about them; the garden-plots, black with freshly-turned earth; the wheel-track, little worn, and even in the market-place margined with green on either side -- all were visible, but with a singularity of aspect that seemed to give another moral interpretation to the things of this world they had ever borne before.
Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this.
At the last, with due emphasis, of solemnity and awfulness, he had killed a young pig with his shot-gun and promptly fainted.
Stunned, not alone by the realization of the awfulness of the fate of their rivals, but also by the terrific storm and the effect of the earthquake and the landslide, Tom and his friends remained for a moment gazing toward the mouth of the cavern, now completely out of sight, buried by a mass of broken trees, tangled bushes, rocks and earth.
And Jerry, who had never heard shell-fire, much less imagined what it was like, was impressed with the awfulness of it.
He appeared, it is true, to feel the whole awfulness of the Judge's death, yet had received the fact into his mind without any mixture of surprise, but as an event preordained, happening inevitably, and so fitting itself into past occurrences that it could almost have been prophesied.
I know that, to the common apprehension, this phenomenon of whiteness is not confessed to be the prime agent in exaggerating the terror of objects otherwise terrible; nor to the unimaginative mind is there aught of terror in those appearances whose awfulness to another mind almost solely consists in this one phenomenon, especially when exhibited under any form at all approaching to muteness or universality.
When it was finished I stood up on the platform and extended my hands abroad, for two minutes, with my face uplifted -- that always produces a dead hush -- and then slowly pro- nounced this ghastly word with a kind of awfulness which caused hundreds to tremble, and many women to faint:
The wind roared down the chimney, the rain beat in torrents against the windows, and everything seemed to speak the awfulness of her situation.