Let’s learn some negative words – English adjectives for describing undesirable traits in people, things, or situations. Read the definitions, learn from the examples, and try to create your own sentences with these negative adjectives!
The negative adjective hideous means extremely ugly (opposite of beautiful). It can also be used to describe things that are morally shocking or offensive.
I like this apartment, but those bright green curtains are hideous.
(= extremely ugly)
Hideous acts of torture were committed during the war.
(= morally shocking/offensive)
Both of these negative words describe something that is disgusting; it makes you feel sick and have almost a physical reaction of wanting to get away from the thing.
The smell coming from the portable toilets was revolting.
He was fired after he made a repulsive joke about his manager’s sex life.
The negative adjective stingy is the opposite of generous. Someone who is stingy doesn’t like to spend or give money, even in situations where they should.
She’s so stingy that she doesn’t even buy birthday gifts for her own mother.
The negative word obnoxious is another way to say very annoying. You can describe a thing, a person, or someone’s behavior as obnoxious.
My boyfriend’s cell phone beeps every time he gets a message; it happens several times a minute and it’s so obnoxious!
Dysfunctional is a negative word describing something that doesn’t function properly; it is usually used for relationships or families that have unhealthy habits of interacting in ways that are not normal or positive.
Sarah has a dysfunctional relationship with her father, who wants to control every aspect of her life.
When used about food, the negative adjective spoiled means the food has gone bad; it is no longer suitable for eating. When used to describe a person (especially a child), it means the person usually gets everything they want and always expects this to happen.
Ugh, my coffee tastes awful. I think the milk I put in it was spoiled.
Timmy is a spoiled little boy who screams his parents if they don’t buy him candy.
Slimy is a negative word used to describe something with an unpleasant wet, slippery, texture. Worms and snails are slimy. This adjective can also be used to describe a person who is dishonest, but tries to hide it and be likeable.
The riverbank was covered with slimy mud.
I don’t like slimy salespeople who try to get you to buy things you don’t really need.
A person who is callous doesn’t appear to have feelings or care about emotions.
How can you be so callous when people are suffering?!
The negative adjective dreary means something is boring, dark, and depressing. It is often used to talk about the weather, but can also be used to describe places, tasks, and events.
It wasn’t the best weekend for camping; the weather was dreary. We didn’t see the sun for three days.
I grew up in a dreary, run-down neighborhood that I couldn’t wait to leave.
(run-down = not well maintained)
Our final negative word is petty. A person who is petty places great importance on small problems, leading to conflict and bad feelings.
My sister’s rather petty. She gets mad at me if I don’t return her texts right away.
Negative Adjectives: Review
Let’s review these negative words by seeing which ones can be used to describe situations or things vs. which ones are used to describe people. Some of these negative adjectives can be used to describe both:
Negative adjectives to describe a person:
Negative adjectives to describe a situation:
Now you know some powerful negative descriptive words in English! Try using each negative adjective in your own example sentence. This will help you remember them better.
Also make sure to check out our lesson on positive words and expressions in English.