Ask the Editor
What's the difference between words like superb, outstanding, and terrific? — Reza, Iran
Superb, outstanding, and terrific are synonyms for very good. And there are many other words in English that can have the same meaning. All ten words below can be used to mean very good or excellent.
These words can be used in similar ways. For example, any of the words above can be used in sentences like these:
You’ve done an awesome job!
Her latest work is fantastic.
However, there are also differences in their use. Here are some usage patterns to be aware of:
- Great has the lowest intensity or strength. However, if it is spoken with enthusiastic intonation, it will have added intensity.
- Awesome is the most informal, and younger people are most likely to use it.
- Older adults are more likely than younger people to use outstanding, superb, and terrific.
- As an exclamation, speakers are most likely to use amazing, fantastic, or great as in, “That’s amazing!”
- Great can be used sarcastically, as in this dialogue:
A: I can’t find the tickets.
B: Oh great, now what are we going to do?
- Terrific, amazing, and incredible are not always used to describe something that is good. They are occasionally used to describe something that is very bad or hard to believe, as in these examples:
- We were hit by a terrific snowstorm last week. (terrific=terrible)
- He showed an amazing lack of concern for others. (amazing=unbelievable)
- It's incredible to me that such a lazy person could be so successful. (incredible=unbelievable)
I hope this helps to answer your question.