28 Better Ways to Say “Very Bad”

You can do better than very bad. It’s a boring, imprecise term.

Here are 28 descriptive adjectives you can use instead.

terrible, awful, horrible

You almost certainly know these words already. We use them all as substitutes for very bad. Note that the descriptive adjectives below are often better choices than terrible, awful, and horrible.

“I had a terrible day.” 

“Marcos did a horrible job on his essay.”

“The Titanic is an awful movie.”

horrendous, abysmal

We use horrendous and abysmal as more severe forms of terrible, horrible, and awful. If terrible, horrible, and awful mean “very bad,” then horrendous and abysmal mean “extremely bad.”

Trust me, you don’t want me to sing. My voice is horrendous.”

The president’s approval rating is absolutely abysmal. No one seems to like him.”


We use lousy to talk about things that are of very poor quality.

Some collocations with lousy are lousy job, lousy day, lousy idea, lousy place, lousy teacher, lousy student, lousy actor, (lousy + any profession), lousy father/mother/son/daughter/brother etc.

I was in a lousy mood and didn’t feel like going to the game.”

Kenneth was a lousy student in high school, but he straightened things out in college.”

Photo by Roger Price on Flickr.


We use appalling to talk about things that cause shock, horror and/or outrage.

Some collocations with appalling are appalling conditions, appalling sight, appalling sound, appalling result, appalling record, and absolutely/positively appalling.

“There have been some appalling human rights violations in that country.”


We use atrocious to talk about things that are extremely wicked, cruel, or brutal.

We can also use atrocious to communicate that something is extremely bad. (Dictionary.com)

Some collocations with atrocious are atrocious act, atrocious behavior, atrocious crime, atrocious law, and atrocious language.

“The prosecutor is seeking the maximum penalty for this atrocious crime.” (atrocious = shockingly wicked, cruel)

“The weather has been atrocious. I haven’t seen the sun in weeks.” (atrocious = extremely bad)


We use dreadful to talk about things that involve great suffering, fear, or unhappiness.

We also use dreadful to talk about things that are extremely disagreeable.

We can also use use dreadful to talk about people who are unwell or troubled. (Oxford Dictionaries)

Some collocations with dreadful are dreadful disease, dreadful condition, dreadful storm, dreadful news, dreadful sight, dreadful scene, dreadful state, and dreadful day.

“Cancer is a dreadful disease.” (dreadful = involving great suffering)

“Karen had an absolutely dreadful day at work.” (dreadful = extremely disagreeable)

“I feel dreadful. I need some sleep.” (dreadful = unwell)


We use dire to talk about things that are extremely serious or urgent. (Oxford Dictionaries)

Some collocations with dire are dire situation, dire prediction, dire moment, in dire straits (in a very bad situation),  and dire condition.

“Climatologists are making dire predictions about the future of the planet.”

gruesome, grisly

We use gruesome and grisly to talk about things that cause horror and disgust.

Some collocations with gruesome are gruesome scene, gruesome image, gruesome case, gruesome account, gruesome story, gruesome crime, gruesome murder, gruesome picture, gruesome death, gruesome accident, and gruesome details.

Some collocations with grisly are grisly death, grisly horror, grisly details, grisly spectacle, grisly photosgrisly task, grisly beast, grisly terror, and grisly business.

“The article gives all the gruesome details of the murder.”

“The jury was shown all the grisly photos of the crime scene.”


We use disastrous to talk about things that cause a lot of damage.

Some collocations with disastrous are disastrous consequences, disastrous fire, disastrous flood, disastrous event, disastrous day, disastrous situation, disastrous experience, and disastrous result.

“The storm was disastrous. It caused millions of dollars in damages.”


We use catastrophic to talk about things that involve or cause great damage or suffering. (Oxford Dictionaries)

Some collocations with catastrophic are catastrophic accident, catastrophic event, catastrophic failure, catastrophic experience, catastrophic resultcatastrophic decision, catastrophic illness, catastrophic natural disaster, catastrophic plan, catastrophic risk, catastrophic storm, catastrophic hurricane, and catastrophic tornado.

Catastrophic events led to the extinction of many prehistoric species.”

Americans have experienced several catastrophic hurricanes in the last few years. (Photo by WikiImages from Pixabay)


We use tragic to talk about things that are sad, harmful, or fatal. (yourdictionary.com)

Some collocations with tragic are tragic life, tragic death, tragic story, tragic event, tragic consequences, tragic accident, tragic history, tragic situation, tragic mistake, and tragic result.

I blame his tragic childhood for the way he turned out.”


We use deplorable to talk about things that deserve strong condemnation, are completely unacceptable, or are shockingly bad in quality. (Oxford Dictionaries)

Some collocations with deplorable are deplorable conditions, deplorable behavior, deplorable actions, and deplorable person.

“Our city’s infrastructure is absolutely deplorable. We must do something about it.”


We use abhorrent to talk about something that causes strong dislike or hatred. (Merriam-Webster)

Some collocations with abhorrent are abhorrent acts, abhorrent behavior, and abhorrent conditions.

“Unfortunately, the organization has a long, abhorrent history of racial prejudice.”


We use despicable to talk about something that deserves strong hatred or contempt. (Oxford Dictionaries)

Some collocations with despicable are despicable character, despicable actions, despicable acts, despicable crimesdespicable human being, despicable joke, despicable lyrics, despicable person, and despicable quote.

“In the last thirty years, the country has been run by a series of despicable leaders.”


We use heinous to communicate that something is extremely wicked and morally wrong.

Some collocations with heinous are heinous crime, heinous offense, heinous charge, heinous act, heinous murder.

“Rape is a heinous crime that should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”


We use reprehensible to talk about things that deserve strong disapproval.

Some collocations with reprehensible are reprehensible acts, reprehensible actions, reprehensible behavior, reprehensible conduct, and reprehensible offense.

“I’m not ready to forgive you. What you did was utterly reprehensible.”


We use shameful to talk about things that cause humiliation or shame.

Some collocations with shameful are shameful acts, shameful behavior, shameful feelings, shameful history, shameful picture, shameful thoughts, shameful secrets, and shameful words.

“Please don’t post those shameful pictures on Instagram.”


We use horrid to talk about things that cause horror.

We also use horrid to talk about things that are extremely unpleasant. (Oxford Dictionaries)

Some collocations with horrid are horrid image, horrid person, horrid massacre, horrid noise, horrid dream, horrid sound, horrid act, horrid murder, horrid practice, horrid sight, horrid place, horrid scene, and horrid crime.

“The conditions in the prisons here are absolutely horrid.” (horrid = causing horror)

“Our vacation was absolutely horrid. Everyone got sick and it rained every day.” (horrid = extremely unpleasant)


We use loathsome to talk about things that cause hatred, disgust, or revulsion.

Some collocations with loathsome are loathsome person, loathsome sight, loathsome diseaseloathsome creature, and loathsome spectacle.

“On TV he plays a loathsome character, but in real life he’s a kind, down-to-earth person.”


We use revolting to talk about things that cause extreme disgust.

Some collocations with revolting are revolting sight, revolting death, revolting description, revolting nature, revolting character, revolting cruelty, and revolting crime.

“Smoking is a revolting habit.”


We use vile to talk about things that are morally bad or wicked.

We also use vile to talk about things that are extremely unpleasant. (Oxford Dictionaries)

Some collocations with vile are vile creature, vile person, vile humor, vile jokes, and vile language.

“Don’t use that vile language here. It’s a family place.” (vile = morally bad or wicked)

“There is a vile smell coming from the basement.” (vile = extremely unpleasant)

What vile language looks like. (Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay)


We use repulsive to talk about things that cause disgust.

Some collocations with repulsive are repulsive habit, repulsive idea, repulsive thoughtrepulsive appearance, repulsive nature, to look repulsive, and to feel repulsive.

“It looks like he hasn’t cleaned in years. His apartment is repulsive.”


We use abominable to talk about things that cause moral revulsion.
We also use abominable to talk about things that are very bad/terrible. (Oxford Dictionaries)

Some collocations with abominable are abominable actions, abominable deeds, abominable plan, and abominable crime.

“These abominable crimes deserve to be punished.” (abominable = causing moral revulsion)

“What an abominable idea. Does anyone else have any suggestions?” (abominable = very bad/terrible)


Most native speakers know and use these words. If you want to sound more like a native speaker, you need to start using more descriptive adjectives. Very bad isn’t going to cut it.

For more better ways to say overused terms, see these articles on synonyms.

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