I'm looking for the word that would describe something that's impressive but in a negative way. At first I was thinking "ridiculous" but it doesn't necessarily invite ridicule.

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    If you accept that impressive = sublime, perhaps the contrast you're looking for is best encapsulated by the standard expression from the sublime to the ridiculous. Latterly, I've often seen from hero to zero. – FumbleFingers Dec 4 '16 at 17:38
  • Can you give an example? – sumelic Dec 4 '16 at 18:32
  • I was going to go with unimpressive... and then I realized it's more of a negation, not an opposite. (If impressive is a positive, unimpressive is more of a zero than a negative.) – Ghotir Dec 4 '16 at 19:33
  • This is actually really hard. The closest I can get is something like "monstrous", particularly with the nuance of a monstrosity. – Andrew Dec 4 '16 at 21:04
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    So, to clarify, you want a word that one might define as "evoking admiration, awe, or respect (and so on) for being <some negative state>"? Or do you want something that one might define as "well-known for being <some negative state>"? The former implies that potential to be admirable to some in the way that some people admire gangsters, while the latter has a sense of "this is bad, just stay away". – LiveMynd Dec 5 '16 at 2:29

This is a really challenging analogy. Infamous isn't the opposite of famous, but rather it means "famous for bad deeds or wickedness". So we're looking for a word that means "impressive, but for something bad".

The closest I can get is "monstrous", particularly with the nuance of a "monstrosity". For example, an enormous building that has impressively awful architecture, like what many think about the "Walkie Talkie Tower" in London

Other possibilities: grotesque, egregious, freakish, outrageous.

  • What about aghast, appalling, awful and uncomely? – Omkar Reddy Dec 5 '16 at 7:55
  • @OmkarReddy aghast doesn't fit in with those other words at all – D. Nelson Dec 5 '16 at 8:05
  • @D.Nelson OK. What about the rest? – Omkar Reddy Dec 5 '16 at 8:09
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    @OmkarReddy They could conceivably be used as synonyms for "monstrous" or "grotesque", yes. – D. Nelson Dec 5 '16 at 8:11

If fear is part of the reason for negativity then perhaps,


  1. causing terror or apprehension

  2. of a formidable nature

If something causes terror, it makes a distinctly negative impression, although negative in a specific way.




is something which stands out from the rest

These do not stand out


The snowfall last night was impressive.
It's normal for this time of year.

The driving skills of cabbies in Mumbai is impressive.
It's quite ordinary, they do it all the time.

The rush hour traffic in LA is quite impressive.
Not really, it happens everyday.

To get a negative, usually more than one word is necessary

impressively bad
exceedingly bad

and the context of what is meant by "bad" needs to be clarified.


A quick Google Search led to these:

  • dull
  • underwhelming
  • undistinguished
  • disappointing
  • unexciting
  • uninteresting

Hope these help.

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    None of these seem like accurate analogies. Infamous doesn't mean "not famous", it means "famous for bad deeds". So we're looking for a word that means something like "impressive but evil". – Andrew Dec 4 '16 at 21:01

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