Meaning of 恐ろしい

Fearful is listed as a meaning for 恐ろしい, but I think this is wrong. Fearsome is probably a better fit if you want a word with ‘fear’ in it.

Fearful can mean something which causes or induces fear though, as well as “feeling fear”. It’s perhaps not the most common use of the word, and I would suggest “frightful” or similar as an alternative, but it’s not wrong.


Do you have reasoning for why you believe it’s wrong? Seems to be a meaning taken from the Kenkyusha J-E dictionary which lists it along with dreadful, frightful and terrible. That’s a pretty authoritative J-E dictionary. The point is, it doesn’t just seem to be a meaning that the WK staff just made up out of whole cloth.

“Feeling afraid; showing fear or anxiety.”
“Causing or likely to cause people to be afraid; horrifying.”

This reflects my experience with this word. I’ve seen it used both ways. Im not entirely certain in which context to use 恐ろしい but either way, “fearful” should cover it.

PS: It might be a suboptimal choice, but i dont think it’s wrong.

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The first definition is 恐怖きょうふ畏敬いけいねんかんずる。
Feeling fear or awe. (and there are other definitions as well)

The given example sentence is 恐ろしくて声も出せない

But as mentioned, fearful does cover that.


Thanks! Where did you get that from?

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Thanks again, saved for later.

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Yep, Weblio’s a great dictionary. This is also a good link to have too:

It’s their E-J/J-E dictionary.

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I was basing this off my understanding of the English word ‘fearful’, not any familiarity with the word 恐ろしい. I never hear this word in the ‘dreadful’ sense, but only the ‘feeling afraid’ sense.

At the end of the day, it’s a suggestion. If most people have no issue with fearful here, then great.

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How were you determining it didn’t match, then? Just out of curiosity.

Just to be clear… it is both “causing fear / awe” and “feeling fear / awe”. I didn’t go through all the Japanese definitions.

こわい is similar, it can be both “scary” and “scared.”

I’m not sure I understand this strict divide you are making. Dreadful and fearful are synonyms. Dread even means ‘to fear greatly’ or ‘to be apprehensive or fearful’ taken straight from Merriam-Webster.

A quick lookup of 恐ろしい on Jisho to confirm it meant scary and not feeling scared. And a quick google search on ‘fearful’ to confirm it meant feeling scared and not scary. Apparently both of my lookups were inadequate though! I intentionally included ‘I think’ and ‘probably’ in my original post to allow for this.

I’ve heard Jisho isn’t the most reliable but I can’t yet read a Japanese dictionary. I’ll take a look at the ejje.weblio link posted above, or if you have a better suggestion I’m all ears.

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Jisho lists ‘dreadful’ in its first listing which is basically just a synonym of fearful.

Dreadful means ‘inspiring dread’ not ‘feeling dread’. But this is kind of off topic to the original point.

And that’s basically synonymous to fearful which its first meaning on Merriam Webster is ‘causing or likely to cause fear, fright, or alarm especially because of dangerous quality’ and again from Merriam Webster if you quote the rest of its first meaning for dreadful it says ‘causing great and oppressive fear’. Again, the words are synonymous. You’re trying to create a distinction that doesn’t exist.

As I said above, I wasn’t aware this was a usage that exists when I made the original post.

Yeah, I think we got it straightened out.


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