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Now that you’ve scrolled to the second part of the article, let’s go straight to the solution: terrible. Here’s the juicy one etymologically puzzle. Awe and wonder are synonyms, but putting a “-ful” as a suffix puts them against each other. The word awe has Scandinavian roots and means terror and fear. In Old English it was: used as egofull, which also meant terrifying. The root word was also used in Proto-Germanic and High and Old High German in a slightly modified form, but with a similar meaning.

Over time, the word awe came to be associated with reverent fear, especially when referring to something related to biblical history or associated with the church. And that’s what makes things interesting, because terrible can mean something terrible, and at the same time it was used as a substitute for anything that deserves a lot of respect, inspiration or majestic influence. Somewhere along the line, terrible cultivated a quantitative side to it. For example, it can be used in phrases like, “Winning a Formula 1 race requires an awful lot of physical and mental conditioning.”


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