• 1.1 Etymology
  • 1.2 Pronunciation
  • 1.3.1 Synonyms
  • 1.3.2 Translations

English [ edit ]

Etymology [ edit ].

From a conflation of a derivation of Old English gǣstan ( “ to torment, frighten ” ) with the suffix -lic , and ghostly (which was also spelt "gastlich" in Middle English). Equivalent to ghast / gast + -ly . Spelling with 'gh' developed 16th century due to the conflation.

Pronunciation [ edit ]

  • ( UK ) IPA ( key ) : /ˈɡɑːs(t).li/
  • ( US ) IPA ( key ) : /ˈɡæs(t).li/
  • Rhymes: ( UK ) -ɑːstli , ( US ) -æstli

Adjective [ edit ]

ghastly ( comparative ghastlier , superlative ghastliest )

  • 1797–1798 (date written) , [Samuel Taylor Coleridge ], “ The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere ”, in Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems , London: [ … ] J [ ohn ] & A [ rthur ] Arch,   [ … ] , published 1798 , →OCLC : Each turned his face with a ghastly pang.
  • 1849–1861 , Thomas Babington Macaulay , chapter 11, in The History of England from the Accession of James the Second , volumes (please specify |volume=I to V) , London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans , →OCLC : His face was so ghastly that it could scarcely be recognized.
  • 1892 , Joaquin Miller , Columbus  : "My men grow mutinous day by day; / My men grow ghastly wan and weak." / The stout mate thought of home; a spray / Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
  • 1961 November 10, Joseph Heller , “The Soldier in White”, in Catch-22   [ … ] , New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster , →OCLC , page 169 : They gathered soberly in the farthest recess of the ward and gossiped about him in malicious, offended undertones, rebelling against his presence as a ghastly imposition and resenting him malevolently for the nauseating truth of which he was bright reminder.
  • 1667 , John Milton , “Book VI”, in Paradise Lost.   [ … ] , London: [ … ] [ Samuel Simmons ],   [ … ] , →OCLC ; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books:   [ … ] , London: Basil Montagu Pickering   [ … ] , 1873 , →OCLC : Mangled with ghastly wounds through plate and mail.
  • 1879 , R[ichard] J[efferies ], chapter 1, in The Amateur Poacher , London: Smith, Elder, & Co. ,   [ … ] , →OCLC : They burned the old gun that used to stand in the dark corner up in the garret, close to the stuffed fox that always grinned so fiercely. Perhaps the reason why he seemed in such a ghastly rage was that he did not come by his death fairly. Otherwise his pelt would not have been so perfect. And why else was he put away up there out of sight?—and so magnificent a brush as he had too.
  • Extremely bad . The play was simply ghastly .

Synonyms [ edit ]

  • ( sickly pale ) : See also Thesaurus:pallid
  • ( horrifyingly shocking ) : lurid

Translations [ edit ]

Adverb [ edit ].

ghastly ( not comparable )

  • 1921 , William Dudley Pelley, The Fog: A Novel , page 196 : Johnathan's lips moved ghastly before his voice would come. "So I'm crazy, am I? And if I choose to murder you, what would you do?"

ghastly or ghostly

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Definition of ghastly adjective from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

  • a ghastly crime/murder
  • She woke up in the middle of a ghastly nightmare.

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ghastly or ghostly

Definition of 'ghastly'

IPA Pronunciation Guide

ghastly in American English

Ghastly in british english, examples of 'ghastly' in a sentence ghastly, trends of ghastly.

View usage over: Since Exist Last 10 years Last 50 years Last 100 years Last 300 years

In other languages ghastly

  • American English : ghastly / ˈgæstli /
  • Brazilian Portuguese : horripilante
  • Chinese : 令人讨厌的
  • European Spanish : horrible
  • French : horrible
  • German : grässlich
  • Italian : orribile
  • Japanese : ぞっとする
  • Korean : 끔찍한
  • European Portuguese : horripilante
  • Spanish : horrible
  • Thai : แย่มาก, เลวมาก, น่ากลัว

Browse alphabetically ghastly

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Why are “Ghost,” “Ghastly,” and “Ghoul” Spelled with “gh”?

By arika okrent | feb 9, 2022.

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"Gh" is a strange way for an English word to start. There are only a handful of commonly used words that begin with this spelling. Beyond the spirit cluster of ghost, ghastly, and ghoul, we have borrowed words like ghetto, gherkin, and ghee, some place names like Ghana and Ghent, and that’s about it.

“Ghoul” was borrowed into English in the 1700s from the Arabic ghul , but at first without the "h," as “goul” or “goule.” It was later lured over to the ‘gh’ group by its semantic similarity to “ghost.”

But how did ghost get its "gh"? Compared to the other "gh" words, “ghost” is both a lot more frequent and a lot older, going all the way back to Old English gást . Until the 1500s, over a few centuries of language change, it was spelled gast, gæst, gost, goste, goost, and goist. “Ghastly” from the related, Middle English gastliche , also came in "h"-free spellings until the 1500s. 

We can trace the introduction of the "h" in ghost and ghastly back to William Caxton, the man who brought the printing press to England. He had established his first press in Bruges, and he brought some Flemish typesetters back with him when he returned to set up business in Westminster. David Crystal writes, in his history of English spelling , that “in Bruges they would have been used to reading manuscripts in Flemish spelling. So if a word reminded them of its Flemish counterpart, why not spell it that way? The boss wouldn’t mind, as long as the words were intelligible. He had more to worry about than spelling.”

The typesetters also used "gh" in their spellings of “goose,” “goat,” and “girl,” but those spellings never caught on. For some reason, only “ghost” and “ghastly” kept the "h." Maybe because the words looked spookier that way. Indeed, a story about the ghost of a “ghoos ghoot gherle” sounds downright terrifying. Thank ghoodness those spellings have ghone.

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Cambridge Dictionary

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Meaning of ghastly in English

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  • bad If the weather is bad, we'll have to find something else to do.
  • poor She's 87 and in poor health.
  • dire The predictions for the economy are dire.
  • grim She was quickly brought back to the grim reality of her life.
  • awful The smell from the trashcans was awful.
  • apocalyptic
  • from hell idiom
  • ghastliness
  • not be all fun and games idiom
  • objectionable
  • objectionably
  • unpleasantness
  • unspeakable
  • unspeakably
  • unsupportable

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Synonyms of ghastly

  • as in gruesome
  • as in intense
  • as in terrifying
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Thesaurus Definition of ghastly

Synonyms & Similar Words

  • frightening
  • nightmarish
  • unspeakable
  • disagreeable
  • intimidating
  • distasteful
  • redoubtable
  • gut - wrenching
  • bloodcurdling
  • hair - raising
  • heart - stopping

Antonyms & Near Antonyms

  • pleasurable
  • excruciating
  • heavy - duty
  • intensified
  • concentrated
  • accentuated
  • superficial
  • toned (down)
  • spine - chilling
  • threatening
  • discouraging
  • disconcerting
  • disquieting
  • demoralizing
  • distressing
  • bone - chilling
  • tranquilizing
  • nonthreatening
  • tranquillizing
  • nonintimidating

Synonym Chooser

How is the word ghastly different from other adjectives like it?

Some common synonyms of ghastly are grisly , gruesome , lurid , and macabre . While all these words mean "horrifying and repellent in appearance or aspect," ghastly suggests the terrifying aspects of corpses and ghosts.

How do grisly and gruesome relate to one another, in the sense of ghastly ?

Both grisly and gruesome suggest additionally the results of extreme violence or cruelty.

How are the words lurid and gruesome related as synonyms of ghastly ?

Lurid adds to gruesome the suggestion of shuddering fascination with violent death and especially with murder.

When might macabre be a better fit than ghastly ?

Although the words macabre and ghastly have much in common, macabre implies a morbid preoccupation with the physical aspects of death.

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Thesaurus Entries Near ghastly

ghastliness

Cite this Entry

“Ghastly.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/ghastly. Accessed 15 Jan. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on ghastly

Nglish: Translation of ghastly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ghastly for Arabic Speakers

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of, characteristic of, or resembling a ghost ; phantasmal; spectral.

Literary . spiritual .

Origin of ghostly

Other words for ghostly, other words from ghostly.

  • ghost·li·ness, noun
  • un·ghost·ly, adjective

Words Nearby ghostly

  • ghost fishing
  • ghost kitchen
  • ghost prisoner
  • ghost runner

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use ghostly in a sentence

The off-register gambit, a favorite of Saybolt’s, renders the image ghostly while emphasizing its mechanical origins.

The protagonist is shown summoning a ghostly horse and fighting against mounted enemies.

Differentiated mostly by their relative shininess, the two media juxtapose in silhouettes of ghostly beauty.

All the while, even after preservationists deemed it a landmark, Crummell remained a ghostly , decaying presence.

Instead, I was treated to just the ghostly haze, which dampened sounds to create a meditative atmosphere.

A storage building became a ghostly concrete frame lit bright orange.

One month after the operation, Holm arrived in a ghostly Stanleyville posing as a State Department representative.

The Dakota, a co-op residence on the Upper West Side, is historically known for its ghostly figures.

Meanwhile, Only Lovers Left Alive uses the city as a character as undead and ghostly as its human leads.

To explain this ghostly occurrence, we get a dollop of gossip concerning the recent death of a hated bishop.

A ghostly mate would be no very pleasant bridegroom for a young lady.

These had a ghostly effect on Yung Pak, and made him cling closely to the side of his tutor.

We visited it in the fading twilight, and a lonelier, more ghostly place it would be hard to imagine.

Startled gasps could be heard from the others in the room as they stared at that ghostly face.

The Japanese matted floor, even in darkness, gives out a sort of ghostly , phosphorescent glow.

British Dictionary definitions for ghostly

/ ( ˈɡəʊstlɪ ) /

of or resembling a ghost; spectral : a ghostly face appeared at the window

suggesting the presence of ghosts; eerie

archaic of or relating to the soul or spirit

Derived forms of ghostly

  • ghostliness , noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Why are 'ghost,' 'ghastly,' and ' ghoul' spelled with 'gh'?

It's a really strange way for an English word to start

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"Gh" is a strange way for an English word to start. There are only a handful of commonly used words that begin with this spelling. Beyond the spirit cluster of ghost, ghastly and ghoul, we have borrowed words like ghetto, gherkin, and ghee, some place names like Ghana and Ghent, and that's about it.

"Ghoul" was borrowed into English in the 1700s from the Arabic ghul , but at first without the "h," as "goul" or "goule." It was later lured over to the "gh" group by its semantic similarity to "ghost."

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But how did ghost get its "gh"? Compared to the other "gh" words, ghost is both a lot more common and a lot older, going all the way back to Old English gást . Until the 1500s, over a few centuries of language change, it was spelled gast, gæst, gost, goste, goost, and goist. "Ghastly," from the related, Middle English gastliche , also came in "h"-free spellings until the 1500s.

We can trace the introduction of the "h" in ghost and ghastly back to William Caxton, the man who brought the printing press to England. He had established his first press in Bruges, and he brought some Flemish typesetters back with him when he returned to set up business in Westminster. David Crystal writes, in his history of English spelling , that "in Bruges they would have been used to reading manuscripts in Flemish spelling. So if a word reminded them of its Flemish counterpart, why not spell it that way? The boss wouldn't mind, as long as the words were intelligible. He had more to worry about than spelling."

The typesetters also used "gh" in their spellings of goose, goat, and girl, but those spellings never caught on. For some reason, only ghost and ghastly kept the "h." Maybe because the words looked spookier that way. Indeed, a story about the ghost of a "ghoos ghoot gherle" sounds downright terrifying. Thank ghoodness those spellings have ghone.

ghastly or ghostly

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COMMENTS

  1. Ghastly vs Ghostly: Which Should You Use In Writing?

    Ghastly is an adjective that describes something that is extremely unpleasant, shocking, or terrifying. It is often used to describe things that are associated with death, decay, or horror. Ghastly can also be used to describe a person's appearance when they look extremely ill or frightened. Examples:

  2. Ghastly Definition & Meaning

    1 a : terrifyingly horrible to the senses : frightening a ghastly crime b : intensely unpleasant, disagreeable, or objectionable such a life seems ghastly in its emptiness and sterility Aldous Huxley 2 : resembling a ghost 3 obsolete : filled with fear 4 : very great a ghastly mistake ghastliness noun ghastly adverb Synonyms appalling atrocious

  3. Ghostly vs Ghastly

    As adjectives the difference between ghostly and ghastly is that ghostly is of or pertaining to ghosts or spirits while ghastly is like a ghost in appearance; deathlike; pale; pallid; dismal. As an adverb ghastly is in a ghastly manner. ghostly English Adjective ( er ) Of or pertaining to ghosts or spirits. a ghostly figure with a hood.

  4. GHASTLY Definition & Usage Examples

    resembling a ghost, especially in being very pale: a ghastly look to his face. terrible; very bad: a ghastly error. adverb Also ghast·li·ly, ghast·i·ly. in a ghastly manner; horribly; terribly. with a deathlike quality. Recommended videos Powered by AnyClip AnyClip Product Demo 2022

  5. GHASTLY

    GHASTLY definition: 1. unpleasant and shocking: 2. extremely bad or ugly: 3. If someone looks ghastly, they look very…. Learn more.

  6. Ghastly

    adjective shockingly repellent; inspiring horror " ghastly wounds" synonyms: grim, grisly, gruesome, macabre, sick alarming frightening because of an awareness of danger adjective gruesomely indicative of death or the dead " ghastly shrieks" synonyms: charnel, sepulchral offensive unpleasant or disgusting especially to the senses Cite this entry

  7. ghastly

    Mangled with ghastly wounds through plate and mail. 1879 , R[ichard] J[efferies ], chapter 1, in The Amateur Poacher , London: Smith, Elder, & Co. , [ … ] , →OCLC : They burned the old gun that used to stand in the dark corner up in the garret, close to the stuffed fox that always grinned so fiercely.

  8. GHASTLY definition and meaning

    1. informal very bad or unpleasant 2. deathly pale; wan

  9. ghastly adjective

    adjective /ˈɡɑːstli/ /ˈɡæstli/ (comparative ghastlier, superlative ghastliest) (of an event) very frightening and unpleasant, because it involves pain, death, etc. synonym horrible a ghastly crime/murder She woke up in the middle of a ghastly nightmare. Take your English to the next level

  10. GHASTLY definition in American English

    Grammar Collins Apps English Quiz Synonyms of 'ghastly' Language Lover's Blog Word Frequency ghastly in American English (ˈgæstli ; ˈgɑstli ) adjective Word forms: ˈghastlier or ˈghastliest 1. horrible; frightful 2. ghostlike; pale; haggard

  11. ghastly

    ghastly - WordReference English dictionary, questions, discussion and forums. All Free.

  12. Why are "Ghost," "Ghastly," and "Ghoul" Spelled with "gh"?

    For some reason, only "ghost" and "ghastly" kept the "h." Maybe because the words looked spookier that way. Indeed, a story about the ghost of a "ghoos ghoot gherle" sounds downright ...

  13. Ghastly Definition & Meaning

    Ghastly definition: Causing shock, revulsion, or horror; terrifying. Origin of Ghastly From a derivation of Old English gǣstan ("to torment, frighten") with the suffix -lic.Equivalent to ghast/gast + -ly.Spelling with 'gh' developed 16th century from confusion with ghost; cf. also ghostly.. From Wiktionary Alteration (influenced by ghost) of Middle English gastli from gasten to terrify aghast

  14. Ghastly vs. Ghostly

    Ghastly Causing shock, revulsion, or horror; terrifying A ghastly murder. Aug 17, 2022 Ghostly Of, relating to, or resembling a ghost, a wraith, or an apparition; spectral. Aug 17, 2022 Ghastly Resembling a ghost; pale or pallid. Aug 17, 2022 Ghostly Of or relating to the soul or spirit; spiritual. Aug 17, 2022 Ghastly Extremely unpleasant or bad

  15. GHASTLY

    GHASTLY meaning: 1. unpleasant and shocking: 2. extremely bad or ugly: 3. If someone looks ghastly, they look very…. Learn more.

  16. GHASTLY Synonyms: 168 Similar and Opposite Words

    1 as in gruesome extremely disturbing or repellent a ghastly murder that shocked even hard-bitten detectives Synonyms & Similar Words Relevance gruesome horrific shocking nightmare horrible terrible horrifying hideous frightening dreadful terrific terrifying awful grisly horrid appalling nightmarish scary macabre sickening frightful horrendous

  17. What is the difference between Ghastly and Ghostly?

    :Ghastly : ( 1 ) Causing horror or fear There was a ghastly accident. ( 2 ) Very bad, distasteful His uncle is a ghastly man. That was a ghastly error. ( 3 ) Ill, upset I feel ghastly. I should not have eaten too much. ( 4 ) Very pale and death-like in appearance You look like ghastly. Are you all right? She had a ghastly pallor.

  18. Ghastly

    1. Causing shock, revulsion, or horror; terrifying: a ghastly murder. 2. Resembling a ghost; pale or pallid. 3. Extremely unpleasant or bad: "in the most abominable passage of his ghastly little book" (Conor Cruise O'Brien). [Alteration (influenced by ghost) of Middle English gastli, from gasten, to terrify; see aghast .] ghast′li·ness n.

  19. GHOSTLY Definition & Usage Examples

    1 before 900; Middle English; Old English gāstlīc. See ghost, -ly Other words for ghostly 1 wraithlike, phantom, ghostlike, unearthly See synonyms for ghostly on Thesaurus.com Other words from ghostly ghost·li·ness, noun un·ghost·ly, adjective Words Nearby ghostly

  20. Why are 'ghost,' 'ghastly,' and ' ghoul' spelled with 'gh'?

    "Ghastly," from the related, Middle English gastliche, also came in "h"-free spellings until the 1500s. We can trace the introduction of the "h" in ghost and ghastly back to William Caxton, the ...

  21. Ghost vs Ghast

    Noun. (rare) The spirit; the soul of man. Then gives her grieved ghost thus to lament. The disembodied soul; the soul or spirit of a deceased person; a spirit appearing after death; an apparition; a specter. Everyone showed that the ghost of an old lady haunted this crypt. The mighty ghosts of our great Harries rose.

  22. ghostly

    The meaning of ghostly. Definition of ghostly. Best online English dictionaries for children, with kid-friendly definitions, integrated thesaurus for kids, images, and animations. ... ghastly: related words: eerie, wan, weird: derivation: ghostliness (n.) Word Parts Subscriber feature About this feature : Subscribe for ad-free Wordsmyth and ...