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.
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).]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.