The main difference between awful and awesome is that awful means extremely bad, whereas awesome means extremely good.
Although the two adjectives awful and awesome look similar, they have contrasting meanings. Awful has a negative meaning, whereas awesome has a positive meaning. Awful means extremely bad, unpleasant, shocking or horrific; in contrast, awesome means inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.
Key Areas Covered
Awe, Awful, Awesome
Awful – Definition, Meaning, Examples
Awful is an adjective that means extremely bad or unpleasant. For example, food that tastes awful is food that tastes bad. Sometimes, awful means shocking or horrific. This adjective can also mean exceedingly large or extreme in degree. For instance, a dress that costs an awful lot of money. In its adverb form, awful can also act as an intensifier, with a similar meaning to very. Let’s now look at some examples of sentences containing this word.
He has an awful boss, so he hates his job.
You look awful – have you been sick?
I felt awful after lying to him.
What’s that awful noise?
She spent an awful amount of money on that house.
He made an awful speech, but everyone clapped.
What an awful thing to do!
Although this adjective is usually associated with negative things, sometimes, it can describe something positive well. For example, in the sentence, “she knows an awful lot”, awful means a great deal.
Awesome – Definition, Meaning, Examples
Awesome is an adjective that means inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear. This adjective is used to describe something that is impressive and amazing. In informal usage, awesome means extremely good. The origin of this word can be traced back to the 16th century: in the sense, awe+ some, meaning filled with awesome. At present, we mainly use this adjective in its informal sense. Let’s now look at some examples.
You look totally awesome in that red dress.
This room offers an awesome view of the sunset.
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed the awesome power of nuclear weapons.
An awesome task lies ahead of you.
One must be receptive to the healing elements of nature, accepting its awesome power.
They were firsthand witnesses of the awesome destructive power of the army.
As evident from the above examples, the adjective awesome can also describe something scary or terrifying. However, this usage is not very common in speech since we mainly use this adjective in a casual or informal sense.
Difference Between Awful and Awesome
Awful means extremely bad, unpleasant, shocking or horrific while awesome means inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.
In general usage, awful has a negative meaning – extremely bad- whereas awesome has a positive meaning – extremely good.
The adjective awful can sometimes also mean very great; for example, she knows an awful lot. Meanwhile, the adjective awesome can also describe something scary or terrifying.
Awful can function as both an adjective and adverb whereas awesome only acts as an adjective. However, note that awful is usually used as an adverb in American English.
Awful means extremely bad, unpleasant, shocking or horrific while awesome means inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear. Awful usually has a negative meaning, whereas awesome has a positive meaning. This is the main difference between awful and awesome.
1. “Beautiful woman with grimace beacuse of bad smell. Isolated on white” By Aqua Mechanical (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
2. “View, cathedral rock, sedona, arizona, america, blue, canyon, cathedral, clouds, desert” (CC0) via Pxfuel