28 Most Common Synonyms for Bad

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Unfortunately, you must have something bad to have something good. Hopefully, you will not look out at the world and see only the things that are in need of improvement!

But in case you do, below is a handy list of words that mean something similar to bad – so that you can describe the bad weather today, the bad luck you had, or the bad service that you had at the restaurant you just came from.

Since bad has several meanings, the list is broken down by meaning.

Synonyms for Bad, meaning of a poor standard or low quality

Examples

  • The pizza from the new Italian restaurant tastes bad.
  • Fred did a bad job of communicating his expectations to his friends, causing many misunderstandings.

1. Terrible

Something that is terrible is really bad and very unwelcome. Anything that is negative can be described as terrible.

Examples

  • Anthony, the report that you turned in last month was terrible, please make sure this month’s report is a massive improvement!
  • When you prepare for something that you are nervous or scared about, try to think of the most terrible possibility so that whatever happens will not seem as bad.
  • Polly feels terrible that she forgot to pick you up at the airport and accidentally left you there.

2. Poor

Poor has two meanings, the most common of which means to have no money. However, poor can also mean something that is bad or of low quality. It is often used in a slightly more formal setting.

Examples

  • The boss of the company did a poor job outlining what the other employees needed to do, which led to the quick downfall of the product.
  • Try to do the best you can to spread the message; if you do a poor job, it will impact the whole country.
  • The trusted newspaper source lost some of its prestige when it did a poor job of reporting the political issue.

3. Unacceptable

Something that is unacceptable is the opposite of acceptable. It is worse than simply being bad, because being unacceptable means that something is so bad that it cannot be accepted.

Often, this refers to something that you do. Usually what has been done falls short of expectations somehow.

Examples

  • It is okay if you turn in the project report a day later than the deadline, but anything later than that is completely unacceptable.
  • I cannot believe that you thought this was okay – it is unacceptable!
  • Jim tried to salvage his relationship with his wife by giving her some time to herself after their big fight, but his wife thought the additional distance was unacceptable.

4. Inadequate

Similar to unacceptable, something that is inadequate is not adequate, or does not fulfill the expectations for it.

The difference comes from the fact that something inadequate is not good enough for its purpose. There does not necessarily have to be any expectations for it.

Examples

  • Terry’s bank account has inadequate funds to purchase the television, so his credit card was denied.
  • While some people think that the government’s standards for environmental emissions of new cars are too restrictive, the environmentalists believe that they are completely inadequate.
  • Your actions are inadequate if you want to advance in the company and get promoted to management jobs; you need to take more initiative.

5. Defective

If you have a defective item, you have an item that has a flaw or is broken in some way. Defective almost always refers to things and objects, rarely to actions or feelings. The noun form of the word is defect.

Examples

  • The microwave has a defective part so it will constantly break down.
  • If you try to build a car or bike with a defective wheel, you will not be able to go very far.
  • Harry always looks for products with defective packaging or other parts because he likes to take them to the customer service desk and ask for a discount.

6. Unfortunate

Something unfortunate is something that is unlucky, or happens to be bad by chance. It often refers to situations, circumstances, and events.

Examples

  • June made the unfortunate mistake of choosing not to tell her parents what she was going to do over the summer, causing them to get into a huge argument.
  • The unfortunate situation was caused by Tom’s habit of leaving things he needs to do until the last minute.
  • The fact that the road was under repair on the only day that we needed to drive that route was very unfortunate.

7. Inappropriate

An inappropriate thing is something that is not fit for the situation. This relies on the fact that some things are good for some situations (such as using humor to learn difficult concepts) but bad for other situations (such as using humor to make fun of someone or in a serious meeting).

Examples

  • Sally’s inappropriate behavior landed her without a job.
  • Even though it is sometimes necessary, it is inappropriate to constantly use your phone when you are meeting with other people.
  • Dan often gets away with using inappropriate humor because the boss really likes him.

Synonyms for Bad, meaning harmful, unwelcome, or unpleasant

Examples

  • The situation looked bad after Victor took that big risk.
  • Mark’s cat was in bad condition after he fell down the stairs.

8. Unpleasant

Something unpleasant is not fun to be around and inherently repulsive. This can refer to something that can be sensed, such as a smell, something physical, or something metaphorical.

Examples

  • Max is an unpleasant person to be around because he constantly complains about anything that he can think of.
  • I do not like to use the bathrooms at gas stations because I think they have an unpleasant
  • Jason was uncomfortable at work the whole day because he had an unpleasant stomachache and headache from his new medication.

9. Serious

While serious can refer to something that is sincere and earnest, it also means something that is demanding of attention and consideration.

This is usually because the situation is dangerous, uncertain, challenging, or very important. As a synonym for bad, serious often refers to a situation or circumstance.

Examples

  • Sam’s grandfather fell down a few steps of stairs and was in serious condition when he was sent to the hospital, but he is recovering quickly now.
  • The CEO of the company is asking that only employees who are facing serious situations at work should bother him with it, or they should fix the problem themselves.
  • She thought that she would not have to take actions after being threatened, but the police told her that it was more serious than she thought.

10. Harmful

Something that can cause harm, injury, or hurt is harmful. While many times harmful things are objects, actions, thoughts, feelings, and other nouns can also be harmful.

Examples

  • Rebecca tried not to show it, but the things that the bullies were saying about her were really harmful to her self-esteem.
  • If an employee accidentally shares company secrets to a rival company, the action can be extremely harmful for that company.
  • When a couple is expecting a child for the first time, they try their best to remove anything that could be harmful to the baby as they prepare.

11. Critical

Something that is critical can be extremely important, or can be disparaging or negative. When describing a situation or problem, however, critical means something that is very dangerous, and often has been very close to a crisis or disaster.

Examples

  • Louis was sent to the hospital in critical condition after he was involved in a head to head car accident.
  • The news reporter was called into the office during the middle of the night to cover a critical situation that was developing overseas.
  • The company was in critical condition after the media uncovered a scandal, as the company’s stock prices had fallen to half its original price.

12. Severe

A severe thing is a thing that is harsh and demanding, whether it be of attention, time, money, or other resources.

Examples

  • The strong hurricane caused severe damage to the entire coast of the country.
  • Valerie’s debt problems became more and more severe because she refused to admit that she owed money and had to pay it back.
  • The severe traffic problems of the city were only made worse by the concert over the weekend.

13. Deleterious

Deleterious things are those that cause harm or damage. You can remember the word by thinking of delete – which is the root of deleterious. The word typically describes the effect of something, even if the word effect is not directly in the sentence.

Examples

  • Reading novels is not deleterious for children; in fact, it can help them relieve stress and stimulate their creativity.
  • The deleterious effect of smoking on one’s health overall has been well documented in medical research for the past few decades.
  • Even though some soda companies will strongly disagree and deny it, sugar has a deleterious effect on health and is a contributor to diseases such as diabetes.

14. Grievous

Something that is grievous is awful, terrible, and severe. It is one of the strongest words that you can use to describe something bad. Often, it describes a mistake that is unforgiveable.

Examples

  • Blaine’s grievous mistake cost him thousands of dollars and five years of hard work.
  • The vote to remove Nate from the company’s leadership team was a grievous blow to those who were trying to maintain the status quo.
  • The grievous wound in Carrie’s side caused her immense pain until she was able to go into the emergency room for surgery.

Synonyms for Bad, meaning evil or unacceptable

You can think of these words as ones that you can use to describe the villains or bad characters in stories.

Examples

  • The bad guys in movies and books are always caught in the end.
  • If you do bad things, karma will catch up to you and bad things will start happening to you.

15. Immoral

An immoral person or action is one that breaks the principles of morality, or the commonly accepted beliefs of right and wrong. If a person in general or a specific action is immoral, it is wrong according to the society that they come from.

Examples

  • The actions of the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s were so immoral that the term Nazi has become synonymous with all evil.
  • Sometimes, the line between what is moral and what is immoral is not clear.
  • The jury decided that Xavier’s actions were not immoral; instead, they determined that his actions were expected under the circumstances.

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16. Evil

If someone or something is profoundly, deeply, and decidedly immoral, they are evil. While it can describe anything that fits this definition, many evil things have a supernatural force influencing the action.

Examples

  • The evil villain of the movie really makes the viewers hate him.
  • It is so evil of the professor to assign so much homework over the winter break!
  • Theodore was able to fool most people by appearing sociable and happy when he met them, but he was really hiding his evil

17. Wicked

Something or someone that is both immoral and evil is wicked. There is also a famous musical on Broadway named Wicked, for the characters in the story.

Examples

  • The wicked stepmother in the story was actually just someone who was severely misunderstood.
  • I can agree with you that the actions Whitney took were unjustified and she should not have done them, but I don’t know if I could say that they are wicked.
  • Companies sometimes do wicked things, but because their public relations and media team are able to talk about them directly to the media, not everyone understands how bad the actions are.

18. Nefarious

Something that is nefarious, typically an action or organization, is very evil. Sometimes, being nefarious implies that it is also somewhat secretive.

Examples

  • The nefarious organization was responsible for thousands of dollars in illegal smuggling and drug sales.
  • The police have a hard time tracking down all the nefarious activities of the criminal organization because they are so secretive and good at dodging the authorities.
  • Thank goodness that the Interpol agents were able to uncover the nefarious plot of the terrorists before they could act on the plans.

19. Dirty

While dirty is often used to mean something that is physically unclean, it also refers to things or people that are metaphorically unclean, or involved in criminal or illegal activities.

It is often used to describe someone who you think should be on the right side of the law – a police officer, for example – but they are using that position of power for their own gain somehow.

Examples

  • The dirty cop forced the criminal organization to pay him so that he could keep helping them evade capture for ten years.
  • The money that was recovered from the drug ring bust was all considered dirty
  • The drug dealer was trying to convince the DEA agent to let him go, but the agent was not dirty enough to relent.

20. Corrupt

Someone or an action that is corrupt is dirty. Usually the person abuses a position of power by forcing – either directly or indirectly – someone else to give them money or gifts in exchange for certain benefits.

If the relationship is mutually beneficial, it is still corruption because the term implies that getting the extra benefits is illegal. Corrupt often refers to various people in different kinds of power, especially business executives or politicians.

Examples

  • The corrupt politician was never arrested because he was able to hide his involvement in the plans very well.
  • One of the biggest challenges in setting up a central government that is powerful is that many people who get into power get there with corrupt
  • The corrupt CEO of the company was arrested for embezzlement, or stealing millions of dollars from the company by forcing the accountants to change the records.

21. Dishonest

In the same vein as corrupt and dirty, someone who is dishonest is someone who does not tell the truth about something.

However, the term is much β€œlighter” in meaning. If someone is dishonest, that does not necessarily mean that they did something very bad or worthy of punishment, just that they did not always tell the truth.

Examples

  • The teacher was dishonest when she said that all her previous students had passed the test, but she did it to give her current students more confidence.
  • The dishonest politician made all of his voters angry when he was elected and started to do exactly the opposite of everything that he had promised.
  • The boss of the department refused to turn over the company’s records because he wanted to hide some of the dishonest deals the company had made.

Synonyms for Bad, meaning a feeling of regret or guilt

Examples

  • Quinton felt bad for abandoning the mission like that, but he really did not think that he would be able to help at all.
  • Sandra feels bad for treating Mary like a child even though she is already in college.

22. Guilty

To feel guilty means to feel responsible for something that has gone wrong, regardless of whether or not you are actually responsible.

Examples

  • Fiona felt guilty for helping her coworkers make her boss look bad, but she was really mad at her boss at the time.
  • Don’t feel guilty about turning down the people that you are not interested in! They will be more thankful for a rejection than if you led them on.
  • If you feel guilty, that could be because you know that you are doing something wrong.

23. Remorseful

To feel remorseful is one step after feeling guilty. Once you get to the feeling of remorse, you feel sorry for doing what you did and want to ask for forgiveness.

Examples

  • Even though he was clearly guilty, he got a shorter sentence because he was remorseful – 5 years instead of 10.
  • If you don’t feel remorseful after doing something wrong, some people will think that there is something wrong with you.
  • It is very interesting to wonder whether people who do terrible things – stealing the life savings of the elderly, or committing murder, for example – feel remorseful over their actions.

24. Regretful

Regretful is a very close synonym to remorseful, meaning feeling sad or sorrow towards something that has happened.

Examples

  • Some people feel embarrassed to be regretful, so they pretend that they never wanted that thing to begin with.
  • I feel regretful that I was not able to finish my studies, even though I quit them to pursue something better.
  • James did not look regretful to have missed his cousin’s graduation at all, which made sense seeing as the ceremony would have been very boring.

25. Ashamed

To be ashamed means to feel embarrassment, humiliation, guilt, and other similar feelings at something that has happened. It always carries around a negative meaning because of the combination of bad feelings that make up the shame – especially embarrassment and humiliation.

Examples

  • β€œI am ashamed to be your sister!” Nancy jokingly yelled at her sister after she started dancing to music in public.
  • You should not feel ashamed to have feelings, because that it what sets human beings apart from other animals.
  • Feeling ashamed is often an unproductive feeling, so it is best to avoid it as much as possible.

26. Contrite

Contrite also means to feel guilty about something, or remorse and regret.

Examples

  • His contrite attitude helped his brother forgive him for his actions.
  • Tony felt contrite after he allowed the opposing team to score the winning goal because it was his responsibility to keep them from scoring.
  • The contrite feeling that Vanna felt after lying to her parents made her never want to lie again.

27. Sorry

To feel sorry about something means to feel distress or sadness at something. Depending on the context, it can also mean feeling regret or remorse, but without the guilt.

Examples

  • I am sorry to hear that you were let go from your job.
  • Jessica is sorry that she ate your cookies without asking you, but she does not regret eating them.
  • John was sorry that he had to lie to his sister about what he was doing, but she did not mind it.

28. Responsible

To feel responsible for something means to feel that you are the cause of that thing. In this context, it usually has a negative meaning, so you feel that you are responsible for something bad that has happened.

Examples

  • I feel responsible for causing us to miss the train, so I will buy us all new tickets for the next available train.
  • One of the most dangerous things in the world is to feel so responsible for something bad that has happened that you are scared to take risks on anything else.
  • The system of politics today is responsible for the growth of wealth and income inequality; we must change the system if we want people to be more equal.

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