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

Terrible used to be reserved for things that caused fear and terror, but today we use the word to describe anything awful, lousy, or just plain bad. People like saying “That movie was terrible!” or “The Yankees are terrible!” If you get a D on a test, you might tell your friends the test (or teacher) is terrible. Or you might also say, “I am terrible at taking tests.”

Definitions of terrible
  1. adjective

    exceptionally bad or displeasing

    terrible handwriting”
    abominable, abysmal, atrocious, awful, dreadful, painful, unspeakable


    having undesirable or negative qualities
  2. adjective

    intensely or extremely bad or unpleasant in degree or quality

    terrible cough”
    severe, wicked


    possessing or displaying a distinctive feature to a heightened degree
  3. adjective

    extreme in degree or extent or amount or impact

    awful, frightful, tremendous


    beyond what is ordinary or usual; highly unusual or exceptional or remarkable
  4. adjective

    causing fear or dread or terror

    terrible curse”
    awful, dire, direful, dread, dreaded, dreadful, fearful, fearsome, frightening, horrendous, horrific


    frightening because of an awareness of danger

Word Family