General English


  • adjective an all-purpose word implying authentic, impressive, etc., in connection with the black reggae and ganja culture and Rastafarian religion of Jamaica. The word first conveyed the power and awe felt and inspired by the (dreadlock-wearing) devotees of Rastafarianism.
  • adjective awful. Employed by middle-class speakers since around 2000, this usage of the term is more likely to be an abbreviation of ‘dreadful’ than the Rastafarian key-word.

Origin & History of “dread”

Old English had the verb ondrǣdan ‘fear’. Its first syllable is generally taken to be the prefix *and- ‘against’, which is related to German ent- ‘away, un-’ and Greek anti- (source of English anti-) and appears also in English answer. The second part, however, remains a mystery. there are one or two related forms in other west Germanic languages, such as Old high German intrātan, but where they come from has never been established satisfactorily. By the end of the Old English period this obsolete prefix had shrunk to a- (adread survived until around 1400), and in the 12th century it started to disappear altogether.