The original meaning of terrible was anything that causes terror. That meaning still applies, but mostly this is a word for anything really bad.


Adapted or likely to excite terror, awe, or dread; dreadful; formidable.

Adjective S.
causing fear or dread or terror; "the awful war"; "an awful risk"; "dire news"; "a career or vengeance so direful that London was shocked"; "the dread presence of the headmaster"; "polio is no longer the dreaded disease it once was"; "a dreadful storm"; "

Adjective S.
exceptionally bad or displeasing; "atrocious taste"; "abominable workmanship"; "an awful voice"; "dreadful manners"; "a painful performance"; "terrible handwriting"; "an unspeakable odor came sweeping into the room"

Adjective S.
extremely distressing; "fearful slum conditions"; "a frightful mistake"; "suffered terrible thirst"

Adjective S.
intensely or extremely bad or unpleasant in degree or quality; "severe pain"; "a severe case of flu"; "a terrible cough"; "under wicked fire from the enemy''s guns"; "a wicked cough"

Adapted or likely to excite terror, awe, or dread; dreadful; formidable.

Excessive; extreme; severe.


Ter"ri*ble , a. [F., fr. L. terribilis, fr. terrere to frighten. See Terror.] 1. Adapted or likely to excite terror, awe, or dread; dreadful; formidable.
Prudent in peace, and terrible in war.
Thou shalt not be affrighted at them; for the Lord thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible.
2. Excessive; extreme; severe. [Colloq.]
The terrible coldness of the season.
Syn. -- Terrific; fearful; frightful; formidable; dreadful; horrible; shocking; awful. -- Ter"ri*ble*ness, n. -- Ter"ri*bly, adv.

Adapted or likely to excite terror, awe, or dread; dreadful; formidable.


Usage Examples

Age is a terrible avenger. The lessons of life give you so much to work with, but by the time you've got all this great wisdom, you don't get to be young anymore.

After all these years, it's still amazing what Obama is allowed to get away with. He says low gas prices in 2009 were caused by a terrible economy, but then claims that the lower number of illegal aliens crossing the border is because of his border policies, not the same lousy economy.

As the plane got closer to Miami, I had this terrible feeling he was dying. Maybe he was telling me that he was going. I felt anger, panic, despair and helplessness.

Climate change is a terrible problem, and it absolutely needs to be solved. It deserves to be a huge priority.

Dad, I'm in some trouble. There's been an accident and you're going to hear all sorts of things about me from now on. Terrible things.

Are you kidding? I'm a terrible cook, but John is a really great one. Literally, I never cook. The whole time we were dating, I prepared two officially romantic meals. Both of them were such disasters that he begs me never to go into the kitchen again.

A state that suppresses all freedom of speech, and which by imposing the most terrible punishments, treats each and every attempt at criticism, however morally justified, and every suggestion for improvement as plotting to high treason, is a state that breaks an unwritten law.

Misspelled Form

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Other Usage Examples

American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.

Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it.

But if there's an erosion at home, you know, Thomas Jefferson warned about a tyranny of an oligarchy and if we surrender our democracy to the tyranny of an oligarchy, we've made a terrible mistake.

Competition in armament, both land and naval, is not only a terrible burden upon the people, but I believe it to be one of the greatest menaces to the peace of the world.

All the modern verse plays, they're terrible they're mostly about the poetry. It's more important that the play is first.

Amnesty is a terrible policy, and it's terrible politics. It's a terrible policy because you are rewarding people for breaking the law.

Christmas to a child is the first terrible proof that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive.

But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.


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