bad 1 (băd)
adj. worse (wûrs), worst (wûrst)
1. Not achieving an adequate standard; poor: a bad concert.
2. Immoral or evil.
3. Vulgar or obscene: bad language.
4. Disobedient or naughty: bad children.
5. Disagreeable, unpleasant, or disturbing: a bad piece of news.
6. Unfavorable: bad reviews for the play.
7. Not fresh; rotten or spoiled: bad meat.
8. Injurious in effect; detrimental: bad habits.
9. Not working properly; defective: a bad telephone connection.
10. Full of or exhibiting faults or errors: bad grammar.
11. Having no validity; void: passed bad checks.
12. Being so far behind in repayment as to be considered a loss: bad loans.
13. Severe; intense: a bad cold.
a. Being in poor health or in pain: I feel bad today.
b. Being in poor condition; diseased: bad lungs.
15. Sorry; regretful: She feels bad about how she treated you.
16. bad·der, bad·dest Slang Very good; great.
Something that is below standard or expectations, as of ethics or decency: weighing the good against the bad.
in bad Informal
In trouble or disfavor.
my bad Slang
Used to acknowledge that one is at fault.
not half/so bad Informal
that's too bad
1. Used to express sadness or sympathy.
2. Used in response to a protest or complaint to express insistence that the speaker's expectation be met.
[Middle English badde, perhaps from shortening of Old English bæddel, hermaphrodite, effeminate or homosexual male.]
Usage Note: Bad is often used as an adverb in sentences such as His tooth ached so bad he could not sleep. This usage is common in informal speech but is widely regarded as unacceptable in formal writing. In our 2009 survey, 72 percent of the Usage Panel rejected the sentence just quoted. · The use of badly with want and need was once considered incorrect, since in these cases it means "very much" rather than "in an inferior manner or condition" or "immorally." But this use is widespread, even in formal contexts, and is now considered standard. · The adverb badly is often used after verbs such as feel, as in I felt badly about the whole affair. This usage bears analogy to the use of other adverbs with feel, such as strongly in We feel strongly about this issue. Some people prefer to maintain a distinction between feel badly and feel bad, restricting the former to emotional distress and using the latter to cover physical ailments; however, this distinction is not universally observed, so feel badly should be used in a context that makes its meaning clear. · Badly is used in some regions to mean "unwell," as in He was looking badly after the accident. Poorly is also used in this way. · Note that badly is required following look when it modifies another word or phrase in the predicate, as in The motorcycle looked badly in need of repair.
Our Living Language Many people might have the impression that the slang usage of bad to mean its opposite, "excellent," is a recent innovation of African American Vernacular English. While the usage is of African American origin and parallels to it are found in language use throughout the Caribbean, the "good" use of bad has been recorded for over a century. The first known example dates from 1897. Even earlier, beginning in the 1850s, the word appears in the sense "formidable, very tough," as applied to persons. Whether or not the two usages are related, they both illustrate a favorite creative device of informal and slang language—using a word to mean the opposite of what it "really" means. This is by no means uncommon; people use words sarcastically to mean the opposite of their actual meanings on a daily basis. What is more unusual is for such a usage to be generally accepted within a larger community. Perhaps when the concepts are as basic as "good" and "bad" this general acceptance is made easier. A similar instance is the word uptight, which in the 1960s enjoyed usage in the sense "excellent" alongside its now-current, negative meaning of "tense."
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.