What's the difference between "horrible" and "horrific"? By dictionary definition, they are almost identical. What's the connotative difference?

2 Answers 2


As you might have noticed when you were doing your dictionary research, the two can be used as synonyms, but horrible can also be used to mean unpleasant.

I had a horrible commute.

probably means the traffic was bad.

I had a horrific commute.

could mean there was a bad accident on the side of the road (or else I'm using a little hyperbole).


Diffen.com has a good word about it:

Horrible and horrific are both related to horror but the words have different connotations. While horrible can be used to refer to something that is not liked or is disagreeable, horrific is a somewhat stronger adjective used to describe things which upset and frighten by their sheer mention. For example – "A horrible meal" and "A horrific war".

At times, both "horrible" and "horrific" can also be used to mean more or less the same thing, e.g. A horrific/horrible illness.

This is somewhat backed by the BBC English Learning

You can describe something as horrible (or dreadful or awful) when you do not like it at all:

  • The hotel was horrible - just awful. The walls were all painted a horrible colour and I've never had such dreadful meals.*

On the other hand,

Horrific is what you would describe something as horrific when it is really upsetting or frightening to think about it or speak about it -

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

It was a horrific motorway accident: twelve people died, a further twenty four suffered horrendous burns.

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