Is "horrorest" a correct English word?



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.


Posted 2015-04-15T14:23:24.657

Reputation: 1 070

3It's not standard, but if you told me that you saw the horrorest movie yesterday, I could guess your meaning. – None – 2015-04-15T21:19:03.720

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". – Steve Jessop – 2015-04-16T10:42:53.893



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...


Posted 2015-04-15T14:23:24.657

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5also horrific ! – user428517 – 2015-04-15T15:18:29.017

@sgroves ooh, good one! – James – 2015-04-15T15:19:06.190

6...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 – 2015-04-15T15:38:52.913

1Horror is definitely an adjective according to CollinsCobuild dictionary and Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's Dictionary. What do you have to say about this? – Gurpreet – 2015-04-15T16:54:53.080

Merriam Websters says it's both. – James – 2015-04-15T16:58:30.697

Does anyone know how to link to a second definition on Merriam-Websters online? I would like to add some to my answer, but I don't know how to link one of the answers. – James – 2015-04-15T17:09:54.733

@DJMcMayhem, According to The Free Dictionary, horror is an adj in "a horror movie". – Khan – 2015-04-15T18:03:16.580

"Hey, could you recommend some good horror for me? " I would dispute this use, it sounds awkward. Horror as a noun is a genre, therefore this sentence is like asking "Hey, could you recommend some good fantasy for me?" or "Hey, could you recommend some good romance for me?". Maybe it's ok as a colloquialism in some areas but it sounds incorrect to me. – Pharap – 2015-04-15T18:44:04.013

5@Pharap All of your example sentences sound completely fine. – DCShannon – 2015-04-15T19:16:29.393

6I 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 – 2015-04-15T20:57:11.680

6I could say "I went to see a baseball movie" but that doesn't make "baseball" an adjective, just an attributive noun. – sumelic – 2015-04-15T20:59:19.467


In “horror movie,” horror is a noun adjunct. It’s a noun modifying another noun, much as adjectives do, but that isn’t the same as an adjective, and it doesn’t inflect like one.

– Bradd Szonye – 2015-04-16T02:00:00.150


@BraddSzonye - I think you've nailed it. It looks to me like some dictionaries are labeling the noun adjunct use of horror as an adjective. It's interesting how one of the dictionaries prompting all this hoopla also reads always used before a noun. That seems like it's maybe "learner-speak" for "noun adjunct". That's also why you can say "It was a scary, frightenng film," or, "It was a frightening, scary film," but you wouldn't use a comma in "It was a scary horror film," nor could you reverse the order: "It was a horror scary film".

– J.R. – 2015-04-16T09:00:31.403

@sumelic: In English, there seem to be two different interpretations of what constitutes an adjective (possibly due to a low degree of inflection for adjectives, which in various other languages make it inherently clear what is or is not an adjective?). One such interpretation (that seems to be prevalent in many other Western languages) is that an adjective is the answer to the question how, and that coincides with what you describe. The other interpretation (that American contacts of mine insist is taught in highschools there) is that an adjective is the answer to what kind of. ... – O. R. Mapper – 2015-04-16T10:06:28.030

... In that latter interpretation (which matches what others call a "noun adjunct"), fox and mouse can be adjectives simply because they are answers to the questions What kind of a trap is a fox trap? / What kind of a trap is a mouse trap? – O. R. Mapper – 2015-04-16T10:07:10.670

1Please remove the phrase "Yes, horror can be an adjective." An attributive noun is not an adjective. We cannot say "the horrorest movie", "a very horror movie" precisely because of this difference. – reinierpost – 2015-04-16T11:17:50.037

And "fox" is not a kind of trap. You can't answer "What kind of trap is this?" with "Fox." or "It is fox." – reinierpost – 2015-04-16T11:18:28.170

@reinierpost: I'd fully agree, and yet, some American highschools seem to firmly disagree with that, and teach that the identifying questions are simply: "What kind of a car is this? - A blue car. - What kind of a trap is this? - A fox trap." This interpretation seems to be reflected by definitions such as "Nouns used in this way are sometimes said to be adjectives", or "What Is An Adjective? (...) Whose? (Caroline's, his, its, John's)". ...

– O. R. Mapper – 2015-04-16T14:30:00.173

... If you can provide a reputable reference that explicitly states that an attributive noun is not an adjective, be my guest. When I first heard that claim, I spent quite a while trying to "prove the people who told me fox etc. can be adjectives wrong", and all I could find was overwhelming evidence that the definition of "adjective" in English is extremely blurry and very much dependent on who you ask (in particular, on whether parts of speech are seen as an inherent property of words, or rather as something determined by whichever function a word currently has in a sentence). ... – O. R. Mapper – 2015-04-16T14:32:24.160

... As this is becoming off-topic here, follow up maybe to ... a separate question, some time. – O. R. Mapper – 2015-04-16T14:32:52.553


Some googling showed that you are correct: the term is used very sloppily. Anyhow, it is the distinction between "real" adjectives and noun adjuncts that counts here. So a reference to an explanation that makes that distinction may help. E.g. Wikipedia or

– reinierpost – 2015-04-16T15:25:24.387

4@O.R.Mapper The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language explicitly says that attributive nouns aren't adjectives. You'll have trouble finding a more authoritative source. – snailplane – 2015-04-16T19:11:42.097


@snailboat: While I do not have access to that book right now, I suppose you are referring to statements like the ones cited here: a "noun" cannot be an "adjective" (a grammatical class) but it can be a "modifier" (a grammatical function) and Attributive nouns fail to qualify as adjectives by virtue of the grading and adverbial dependents criteria. They don't take very or too or the analytic comparative marker more as modifier.. Thank you for pointing out that work :)

– O. R. Mapper – 2015-04-16T21:45:59.997


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


Posted 2015-04-15T14:23:24.657

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2I agree with your disagreement. "Horrific" and "horrifying" are useful as adjectives, "horror" is not. – Adam Haun – 2015-04-15T21:20:35.210


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.

– snailplane – 2015-04-15T23:38:48.943

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 – 2015-04-16T09:36:17.127

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"! – Steve Jessop – 2015-04-16T10:23:42.060

... 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. – Steve Jessop – 2015-04-16T10:29:19.467


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.)


Posted 2015-04-15T14:23:24.657

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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 – 2015-04-15T18:48:33.820

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. – Steve Jessop – 2015-04-16T10:33:59.987

@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 – 2015-04-16T16:27:20.610

@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. – Steve Jessop – 2015-04-16T16:33:11.393

@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 – 2015-04-16T16:52:44.097

@zwol: yellower :-) Again "ower" is arguably a gigantic vowel, I guess not a diphthong but a triphthong. – Steve Jessop – 2015-04-16T16:55:21.463

@SteveJessop has some interesting analysis based on BNC data. It looks like it's one of those rules that gets more complicated the deeper you dig.

– zwol – 2015-04-16T17:07:11.973


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.


Posted 2015-04-15T14:23:24.657

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4It 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. – Nathan Tuggy – 2015-04-15T16:56:29.313

2Horror 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 – 2015-04-15T17:12:19.553

More medical makes sense, in the context of "there were two public health issues. This one was more social, and that one was more medical." – Daniel Lawson – 2015-04-16T01:46:45.943

1Almost 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 – 2015-04-16T03:20:06.757

1Because 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 – 2015-04-16T03:21:54.450

1@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 – 2015-04-16T10:01:29.743

@Rushyo: True - though more medical might (?) make sense when it refers to the focus of a text. A text intended to be read by doctors would be "more medical" than a text intended for a general audience, wouldn't it? (At least, I have come across such usage with the similar words "technical", "scientific", etc.). – O. R. Mapper – 2015-04-16T10:15:35.967

'More technical' is short-hand for 'of a more technical nature'. Same for scientific. They are probably too widely used nowadays to be considered mere jargon, but that's their etymology. I would hesitate to treat it as a general rule of grammar to be applied generically. – Rushyo – 2015-04-16T10:26:02.017

@Rushyo: specifically, "more" refers to the extent to which the issue belongs in the category "medical issue" or "social issue". Another way to express the same thing would be, "this one had more aspects relating to society, and that one had more aspects relating to medicine". So we're using "more medical" to mean, "medical to a greater degree". This seems a lot like grading ;-) But I think it's a general rule when the degree to which something belongs in a category is variable (Daniel's example), or the degree to which something is characteristic of a style is variable (OR's) – Steve Jessop – 2015-04-16T10:53:41.320

About the dilemma whether adjectives can be categorised as 'gradable' and 'non-gradable' - grammars (e.g. LEG, or British Council website) claim that they can. One can agree or disagree with specific examples, but English is not the only language to distingush between gradable and non-gradable adjectives.

– Lucky – 2015-04-16T11:46:32.927

1@Rushyo: So, what's the point? Whether it's a "more technical text" or a "text of a more technical nature", "more technical" is the comparative form of the adjective "technical", which is thus getting graded. (Also, I'm not sure I find the short-hand explanation convincing; you could claim something like that about virtually every adjective. "Tasty food"? No, it's "food of tasty nature". A "beautiful photo"? No, it's a "photo of beautiful nature".) – O. R. Mapper – 2015-04-16T14:14:16.643

@O.R.Mapper Actually, I agree you may well be correct there. I think I was thinking too much in the context of the original post. – Rushyo – 2015-04-16T14:29:38.123


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.


Posted 2015-04-15T14:23:24.657

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2In 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 – 2015-04-15T23:36:06.553

1Indeed, 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. – Steve Jessop – 2015-04-16T10:38:53.247


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.


Posted 2015-04-15T14:23:24.657

Reputation: 5

3Welcome 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 – 2015-04-15T21:01:07.570

3The 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. – 2015-04-16T09:04:37.730

1If it is not a word, of any kind, how could you write it? – None – 2015-04-16T15:45:50.050

2@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 – 2015-04-16T17:17:34.583

DcShannon: Point taken - I didn't notice it. But perhaps that demonstrates MY point a bit well, too. I didn't notice it among the extraordinary amount of noise present on the page. Pazzo: No. JR: Sometimes they can, but this isn't the case.
I come from programming forums where often less is more. Say the correct answer and move on. Some explanation and background is sometimes warranted, but most of the time it serves the world best to refer the OP to a link where they can do their own additional homework, rather than feeling you must write the world in your answer.
– Isaac – 2015-04-16T17:48:04.330

2Isaac, 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. – 2015-04-17T08:48:42.317

JR - One thing I've learned from being a programmer, (& English forums can benefit from this pursuit/discipline perhaps even MORE, if that's possible) is the necessity & value to be precise. People write things that are not words all the time. That's fine-in those cases their goal isn't necessarily to output words, it's to engage & entertain. The question by itself--& even more so within the context of this forum--is clearly asking if the word is a correct English word. It's not. Sorry, no amount of semantics can change that, and the silliness of this entire discussion makes my point nicely. – Isaac – 2015-04-17T14:50:13.430

2@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. – 2015-04-18T15:20:25.183


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.


Posted 2015-04-15T14:23:24.657

Reputation: 105

3-1, 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 – 2015-04-15T19:18:48.893