Horrifying vs horrific vs terrifying

A-friend

Senior Member
Persian (Farsi)
Hello there
I've been struggling since a couple of days ago to find out the difference between these three words, but still I have not succeeded in this regard!

That was why I decided to bring up two simple examples to ask you about their usages and the way you utilize each one.
Please have a look on my examples below and let me know which choice would you prefer?

Example 1. Having to survive in the desert for eight days with very little water and practically no shelter from the sun is ..............

a. horrifying
b. horrific
c. terrifying

Here, I think "b" doesn't work and both "a" and "c" work.

Example 2. It was a .............. scene. The dead and the wounded had all been left by the roadside.

a. horrifying
b. horrific
c. terrifying

To me, all the choices work here.

**My interpretation of each word** [I'm not sure if I've been right]:

Horrific = Something that fills you with disgust + extreme fear

Horrifying = an extremely shocking think that fills you with extreme fear [with an element of danger.]

Terrifying = Something that fills you with extereme fear
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I've been struggling since for a couple of days ago to find out the difference between these three words, but still I have not succeeded in this regard!
    Unfortunately, all of the words have, over the past 200 years weakened in their derived meanings. Your definitions are technically correct, but practically they tend to almost merge into one another because of that weakening.

    It is particularly difficult to see the nuances in the words (where they exist) in the examples without real context.

    I would have used "horrific" in both.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    terrifying = causing terror (extreme fear)
    terrific = very impressive in a good way
    terrible = awful / extremely unpleasant

    horrifying = causing horror (extreme shock mixed with fear)
    horrific = displaying elements so awful as to induce horror
    horrible = not nice
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    Unfortunately, all of the words have, over the past 200 years weakened in their derived meanings. Your definitions are technically correct, but practically they tend to almost merge into one another because of that weakening.

    It is particularly difficult to see the nuances in the words (where they exist) in the examples without real context.

    I would have used "horrific" in both.
    Thank you Paul :)
    Just why do you prefer using "horrific" rather than "horrifying"? How can you explain that? What do they mean to you so that causes you to chose "horrific" here? It's really confusing.

    terrifying = causing terror (extreme fear)
    terrific = very impressive in a good way
    terrible = awful / extremely unpleasant

    horrifying = causing horror (extreme shock mixed with fear)
    horrific = displaying elements so awful as to induce horror
    horrible = not nice

    Very well explanation lingobingo. The only think that is unclear yet, is the definition of "horrific"! It is so close to "horrifying" that although you have tried to explain it, I cannot tell these two apart. Maybe providing a little more details can be useful here. :)
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    They’re not the same. Horrifying is a present participle used as an adjective, and as such it means inducing horror, filling [someone] with horror. Horrific does not mean directly causing horror; it means full of horror.

    It was horrifying to see the horrific injuries people had sustained in the explosion.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    They’re not the same. Horrifying is a present participle used as an adjective, and as such it means inducing horror, filling [someone] with horror. Horrific does not mean directly causing horror; it means full of horror.

    It was horrifying to see the horrific injuries people had sustained in the explosion.
    Thank you very much lingobingo. That was really helpful.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Hi.

    Today Stephen posted a piece of news which took place six years ago. It was about a 13-year-old girl killed and dismembered her classmate just beacause her classmate was pretty and this 13-year-old was jealous. After reading it, I commented:

    That was dreadfully horrifying.

    Is is idiomatic to say that?
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    I agree. 'Dreadfully' is not at all common in the US and has definitely lost its original meaning. I am sure I have read novels in which upper-class women make remarks to their husbands like "This room is dreadfully warm, dear."

    I think 'horrifying' is a more powerful word than 'dreadful.'
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    Whether 'horrifying' or 'horrific' is better depends on what you want to say.

    To paraphrase lingobingo (#5):
    Horrifying = causing horror or filling [someone] with horror.
    Horrific = full of horror.

    Whether 'that was horrifying' or 'that was horrific' is better depends on what 'that' is.

    It [the act of reading the news] was horrifying. It [the girl's death] was horrific.

    But you could also say 'the girl's death was horrifying,' because the fact of her death horrified you.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It's horrifying to think that you could die peacefully in your sleep on any given night, however dying peacefully in your sleep is not horrific.
     

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    It might help to know that "horrid", "horror", "horrible" are derived from the Latin horrere, to bristle or shudder.
    The horrible is what makes your hair stand on end, or makes you shudder.
    "Terrible" is from Latin terrere, to frighten.
    So you could say that "horrible" is more specific.
    You can look up the etymology of "dreadful" for yourself.
     
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