I know that "horror" is also an adjective as in I saw a horror movie yesterday. But I don't know if its comparative and superlative forms are "horrorer" and "horrorest" respectively. I searched on Google and found that these forms are used by people (mostly Indians) who are not quite good at English. I didn't find any standard source that uses these forms of the word. Please let me know if these forms are correct and accepted in standard English or not.

  • 4
    It's not standard, but if you told me that you saw the horrorest movie yesterday, I could guess your meaning.
    – user6951
    Apr 15, 2015 at 21:19
  • Aside from the grammar, I think another difficulty here is you're trying to qualify an absolute. OK, so genre is not entirely clear-cut, but normally people think a movie either is in the genre "horror" or it's not, even if they disagree which is true of a particular movie. So you could say something like, "the movie most representative of the horror genre", or "the most obviously a horror movie" in preference to "the most horror movie", let alone "horrorer". Apr 16, 2015 at 10:42

7 Answers 7


Horror is not an adjective. It is a noun. In the sentence "I saw a horror movie yesterday", it seems like an adjective, since it modifies "movie", but that's not what's actually happens. "Horror movie" is a compound noun. "Horror" can also be a noun by itself

Hey, could you recommend some good horror for me?

You could also substitute another movie genre for horror in the above sentence. Action, adventure, comedy, drama etc. and it works the same way.

Adjectives similar to horror are

Scary, creepy, unnerving, unsettling, disturbing, frightening, horrific, terrifying...

  • 6
    also horrific !
    – user428517
    Apr 15, 2015 at 15:18
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    ...and don't forget horrifying! There are many synonyms, but I think the progression the OP is looking for might be scary, scarier, and scariest. That movie was scarier than the scary movie we saw last week, but it wasn't the scariest movie I've ever seen. Also, +1 for explaining compound noun.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 15, 2015 at 15:38
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    @Pharap All of your example sentences sound completely fine.
    – DCShannon
    Apr 15, 2015 at 19:16
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    I don't see why "horror" would be considered an adjective in "horror movie". It cannot be used predicatively (*That movie was horror) or comparatively (It was a horrorer movie than the previous one we saw). What reason is there for thinking of it as an adjective rather than as a modifying noun?
    – sumelic
    Apr 15, 2015 at 20:57
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    I could say "I went to see a baseball movie" but that doesn't make "baseball" an adjective, just an attributive noun.
    – sumelic
    Apr 15, 2015 at 20:59

No, it is not a correct English word.

Apparently Merriam-Webster includes an adjective definition for 'horror', but I have to disagree with them here.

The example usage is 'horror movie', which you've also included in your question. However, 'horror movie' is a compound noun, and in that phrase, 'horror' is acting as a noun adjunct, not an adjective.

A noun adjunct is a noun that is used in a manner similar to an adjective. This does not automatically result in comparative and superlative forms, such as 'horrorest' and 'horrorer'.

Near the end of the linked 'compound noun' article, there's a discussion on alternative forms in natural language. The example compares using a noun adjunct versus an adjective based on the noun (an inflection). In this case those two forms would be:


A horror movie


A horrifying movie

Inflection Comparative and Superlative

A more horrifying movie

The most horrifying movie

  • 3
    I agree with your disagreement. "Horrific" and "horrifying" are useful as adjectives, "horror" is not.
    – Adam Haun
    Apr 15, 2015 at 21:20
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    Although it doesn't make sense to do so, it's not unusual for dictionaries to list nouns used attributively as though they were adjectives. Unfortunately, this practice misled some of the other answerers. See Geoffrey Pullum's Lexical Categorization in English Dictionaries and Traditional Grammars for some discussion.
    – user230
    Apr 15, 2015 at 23:38
  • I concur with this assessment, so much so I felt the need to make an account just to +1 this. The rationale provided in the accepted answer is incorrect because it does not account for noun adjuncts and makes assumptions about adjectives that are invalid.
    – Rushyo
    Apr 16, 2015 at 9:36
  • Lucky's answer quotes MW Learner's Dictionary saying it's an adjective "always used before a noun". Which, I agree, is a lot like saying it's not an adjective at all :-) It's just a matter of classification, but "noun adjunct" is a way more useful classification than "adjective used only before a noun and that has no comparative/superlative forms and possibly some other special rules"! Apr 16, 2015 at 10:23
  • ... so why lexicographers put themselves to the trouble of listing exceptions over and over again as if they were special, instead of fixing their classification, is a bit of a mystery. Apr 16, 2015 at 10:29

You've asked two questions in one.

First, horror cannot be used with the -er/-est comparative suffixes; native speakers would only ever use more and most. This is simply because horror has more than one syllable. There are a whole bunch of exceptions both ways (see the discussion in the comments and this more thorough explanation on Wikipedia) but the basic principle is that the comparative suffixes are primarily used with single-syllable words of Germanic derivation, while more and most are primarily used with many-syllable words of Latin derivation.

Second, more horror is not how a native speaker would compare the grade of horror in two works of fiction -- this movie didn't scare you much at all, that movie scared you a lot more. Instead, we would say one was more horrifying than the other. And one particular movie might be the most horrifying movie you have ever seen.

The logic behind this word choice is: you're describing something the movie did to you (it induced the emotion of horror) and you're comparing how effectively it did that. The movie did something, so that requires a verb, specifically the -ify verb form of the induced state. Then you convert the verb back into an adjective with -ing to make it an intrinsic quality of the movie, and now it can be compared to the same quality in other movies. (We still can't use -er/-est, because horrifying has even more syllables ... except that *horrifyingest has so many stacked suffixes that I can imagine someone intentionally using it, for effect.)

More horror is also something native speakers might say, but it means something different and is used with different main verbs. If I say movie A has or contains more horror than movie B, that means more of the time of movie A is spent on storytelling elements that are typical of the horror genre; this might or might not correlate with movie A being more horrifying (perhaps A has so much horror in it that it goes over the top (sense 2) and becomes ridiculous).

(Boldface: emphasis. Italics: mention, not use. Leading asterisk: marks descriptively-incorrect construct.)

(More horrorshow means something completely different.)

  • It's more than just standard American, it's standard British too. Presumably by extension it's correct in other commonwealth nations such as Australia and Canada since American and British English are their main influences.
    – Pharap
    Apr 15, 2015 at 18:48
  • Since this is for learners: on the subject of the "rare exceptions", note that one suffix that creates multi-syllable adjectives does generate "-er", and "-est" forms, whereas others don't. So, "scare" forms "scary, scarier, scariest", whereas "pain" forms "painful" but not "painfuller", "painfullest". Despite "fullest" being a perfectly good word in its own right. Apr 16, 2015 at 10:33
  • @SteveJessop I'm having trouble understanding you. Are you saying that adjectives formed with -y from a one-syllable root word are all exceptions to the "no -er/-est with multisyllable" rule?
    – zwol
    Apr 16, 2015 at 16:27
  • @zwol: not sure I want to say they all are, there could be exceptions to my exception to the rule. My main point is that there's a huge class of two-syllable adjectives that have "-er" and "-est" forms. I wonder if there's some mechanical reason, like "-y is only barely a syllable anyway", or it's just one of those things. Apr 16, 2015 at 16:33
  • @SteveJessop Guessing, but -ier and -iest are single syllables (sorta); maybe a more precise rule is that the derived form can have no more than two syllables. I put "rare exceptions" in the text because I was sure there were some (because English) but couldn't think of any.
    – zwol
    Apr 16, 2015 at 16:52

When you look it up in MW Learner's Dictionary it can be defined as an adjective:

2 horror /ˈhorɚ/adjective

always used before a noun

:intended to cause feelings of fear or horror

but there are no comparative/superlative forms offered. When you look up another adjective (let's say 'clear'), comparative and superlative forms are shown before the definition. This may be used as a guide to determine whether an adjective is gradable or non-gradable. Horror, I would say, is non-gradable, same as medical or dead.

P.S. ODO, CDO and LDOCE don't define of horror as an adjective, only as a noun. I have found it defined as an adjective only at MW.

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    It is sometimes useful, if only hypothetically, to mention how much "deader" someone or something is. Similarly, it is even possible to express that something is the "deadest" you've ever seen. "Dead", then, seems to be gradable. ("Medical" isn't.) I suspect the Learner's Dictionary here may be taking a shortcut to avoid explaining compound nouns. Apr 15, 2015 at 16:56
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    Horror is defined as an adjective (one of the definitions) in regular MW, not just learner's version. I think that 'deader' and 'deadest' are used only as a figure of speech, you're either dead or you're not, which makes it non-gradable. Still it is an interesting observation that non-gradable adjectives can be used in comparative/superlative forms for stylistic purposes.
    – Lucky
    Apr 15, 2015 at 17:12
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    Almost all actual adjectives are morphologically capable of being graded; calling some of them "ungradable" seems like it's simply a short way of saying that it normally wouldn't make sense to use the graded forms. On the other hand, noun adjuncts cannot morphologically be put into this form, even in cases where it might express a useful idea as in the OP's example.
    – sumelic
    Apr 16, 2015 at 3:20
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    Because of this, adjectives can't be usefully divided into absolute categories of "gradable" and "ungradable": it's a function of how they are used, and can vary depending on the context.
    – sumelic
    Apr 16, 2015 at 3:21
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    @DanielLawson In that instance, 'more' refers to the issue (it is implied you are referring to the compound noun 'medical issue') not the word medical alone. Thus, it is more of an issue (of the type medical), and it is not more of a medical (as describes that issue). The long form equivalent of what you wrote is "This one was more a social issue, and that one was more of a medical issue."
    – Rushyo
    Apr 16, 2015 at 10:01

Horror is a genre of fiction; it is not something you can apply to anything that is bad. For that we have the words "horrible" and, much less commonly and a little more specific, "horrific". Since each of those has three syllables, you would have to use them like this:

more horrible
most horrible

The best way to apply this to a horror movie would be to kind of get around it and say something like "the movie that is the most focused on being a horror film".

...As mentioned in the comments, "horror", "horrible", "horrific", and "horrifying" all have different meanings, with "horrific" and "horrifying" being particularly close in definition.

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    In the context of a work of fiction, "horrible" would normally express that you thought it was poorly written, not that you thought it was effective at producing horror (in my opinion as a native speaker).
    – zwol
    Apr 15, 2015 at 23:36
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    Indeed, the "horror" caused by something being "horrible" is mostly figurative in modern use. The "horror" cause by something being "horrific" is more likely to be literal, and the "horror" caused by something being "horrifying" most likely. Apr 16, 2015 at 10:38

The answer to your question doesn't require anywhere near the long writings produced on this page.

SIMPLE ANSWER: NO. "Horrorest" is not a word. Of any kind, nor any usage.

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    Welcome to ELL Stack Exchange! Answers like this can sometimes be useful, as we can get a little pedantic at times, however one of the answers on this page already has the simple answer at the top in bold, before going into more detail afterward. Is there a reason you felt this was insufficient?
    – DCShannon
    Apr 15, 2015 at 21:01
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    The problem with "simple answers" is that they can sometimes be wrong. Adding references to support or substantiate a stated position is what makes a contribution an authoritative answer, instead of just an opinion or assertion.
    – J.R.
    Apr 16, 2015 at 9:04
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    @pazzo: we can write plenty of things that are not words. Fnarbability, fghfgjfgj, jhkuil5d, jukioyb. There. No one would say those are words in English.
    – sumelic
    Apr 16, 2015 at 17:17
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    Isaac, programming forums have an advantage in this regard: if I'm skeptical that your proposed solution will work, I can just compile it and see for myself. Languages like English don't work quite like Java, which is why the English forums appreciate at least one or two substantiating references. Moreover, I don't fully agree with pazzo's answer, but I do appreciate the way it links to a headline reading Horror Horrorer Horrorest. There it is, in black and white – clearly some kind of word, in some kind of usage. If it's not functioning as a word there, then what is it?
    – J.R.
    Apr 17, 2015 at 8:48
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    @Isaac - True, the OP is asking if this is a "correct English word," and horrorest is not one of those. But that's not what your answer says. Your answer says, "not a word of any kind, nor any usage," and that's where your brevity (not precision) has gotten you into trouble. A word is simply "a single unit of written or spoken language," so, technically, horrorest is a word. You may not find it in dictionaries, and you can't use it in Scrabble, but it's nonetheless a word, much like ain't, qubit, borogoves, Catan, Hogwartsean, dadgummest and other "words" my spellchecker underlines.
    – J.R.
    Apr 18, 2015 at 15:20

The comparative and superlative forms should be more horror and most horror respectively, as it is normally the case for polysyllabic adjectives. That said, I agree with others that horror in a horror movie sounds rather like a noun.

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    -1, I don't think those forms are valid. Can you give an example sentence with 'more horror' or 'most horror' being used as an adjective?
    – DCShannon
    Apr 15, 2015 at 19:18

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