Bad luck, an injury, a mistake, an unfortunate outfit, or a crime — anything can be called horrendous if it causes such dread or fear that you can barely even think about it.

If you’ve ever encountered something horrendous, you won’t be surprised to learn that the word traces back to the Latin word horrere, meaning "to bristle with fear, shudder." That’s a good way to think about horrendous things — they cause you to shudder. You can use the word to describe any type of thing — people, ideas, actions, and so on — but save it for those things that are not merely bad but instead are truly horrifying.

Definitions of horrendous
  1. adjective
    causing fear or dread or terror
    synonyms: awful, dire, direful, dread, dreaded, dreadful, fearful, fearsome, frightening, horrific, terrible
    frightening because of an awareness of danger
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week