adj. ghast·li·er, ghast·li·est
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).
Synonyms: ghastly, gruesome, grisly, grim, macabre
These adjectives describe what is shockingly repellent in aspect or appearance. Ghastly suggests the shock or horror inspired by violent death or bodily harm: the ghastly toll of trench warfare; a ghastly disfiguring disease. Gruesome and grisly often describe what horrifies or revolts because of its graphic nature: a gruesome murder scene; read about the grisly details of the accident. Grim refers to what repels because of its harsh or unnerving nature: the grim task of burying the earthquake victims. Macabre can suggest the fascination as well as the horror of unnatural death and is often used of artistic works: a murder mystery with a macabre twist at the end.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 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.