‘Worse' or 'Worst': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on December 7, 2022

Is this the ‘worse’ day of your life or the ‘worst’ day? How do you know which to use and what the difference is between these two words? They’re similar and come from the same word, family, but what do they mean? We’ll cover all of that below, plus teach you how to use both words correctly.

The short answer is:

  • ‘Worse’ is a comparative adjective that means low standard or low quality, unpleasant, or more unfavorable.
  • ‘Worst’ is a superlative adjective that describes something of the lowest standard or lowest quality. It’s the extreme version of the word.
  • Both of these words can also function as nouns and adverbs.

‘Worse’ vs. ‘Worst’ – We’ll Teach You the Difference

As we just touched on briefly, the difference between the two words is that ‘worse’ describes something of low quality, and ‘worst’ describes something of the lowest quality. Meaning if something is ‘worse’ than something else, something else could be the ‘worst’ or the most horrible something could be.

When Should ‘Worse’ or ‘Worst’ Be Used?

If you’re looking for the most extreme version of the word, use ‘worst.’ (i.e., this is the worst trip I’ve been on – meaning nothing has been worse than this.) But if you’re comparing two things, you might say one is ‘worse’ than the other, but not necessarily the ‘worst.’ (i.e., this trip is worse than the last one, but nothing beats our trip to Vegas three years ago. That was the worst.)

Now, let’s look at the definition and meaning of both words.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Worse’

The Merriam-Webster definition of the adjective form of the word is: “of more inferior quality, value, or condition,” “more unfavorable, difficult, unpleasant, or painful,” “more faulty, unsuitable, or incorrect,” “less skillful or efficient,” “bad, evil, or corrupt in a greater degree: more reprehensible,” and “being in poorer health: sicker.”

The noun form of the word can be defined as: “one that is worse.”

The adverb’s definition is: “in a worse manner: to a worse extent or degree” and “what is worse.”

Phrases Containing ‘Worse’

You might have heard phrases containing the word ‘worse.’ Let’s take a look at a few of them.

  • Could do worse (used to say that a particular choice, action, etc., is not a bad one)
  • A fate worse than death (something worse than dying)
  • For better or worse (whether good or bad things happen: no matter what happens)
  • From bad to worse (to become worse)
  • Take a turn for the worse (to become worse)

Definition and Meaning of ‘Worst’

Merriam-Webster's definition of the word is: “most corrupt, bad, evil, or ill,” “most unfavorable, difficult, unpleasant, or painful,” “most unsuitable, faulty, unattractive, or ill-conceived,” “least skillful or efficient,” and “most wanting in quality, value, or condition.”

The adverb version of the word can be defined as: “to the extreme degree of badness or inferiority” and “to the greatest or highest degree.”

The noun version is defined as: “one that is worst.”

Finally, the verb version of the word is defined as: “to get the better of: defeat.”

Some synonyms of the word include:

  • Beat
  • Defeat
  • Get
  • Master
  • Overmatch
  • Stop
  • Best
  • Dispatch
  • Get Around
  • Overbear
  • Prevail
  • Conquer
  • Do Down (British)
  • Lick
  • Overcome
  • Subdue
  • Surmount
  • Win (against)
  • Take

How to Use ‘Worse’ in a Sentence 

Now that we know the definition and the difference let’s take a look at how to use both words in a sentence. We’ll start with ‘worse.’

  • The military’s defense is worse than it’s been in recent years.
  • My grades have gotten worse this semester. I might need a tutor.
  • The setup instructions for products are getting worse and worse.
  • I have a feeling the holiday party is going to be worse than it’s ever been without Brett.
  • The healthy snacks in the break room are getting worse every week.
  • It could have been a lot. We could’ve been stranded on top of the accident.

How to Use ‘Worst’ in a Sentence 

Now, let’s take a look at how to use ‘worst’ in a sentence correctly.

  • My fiancé just got into the worst accident.
  • That’s the worst excuse Marvin’s ever given for being late to work.
  • I’ve just experienced the worst loss of my life. I had two deaths in the family back to back.
  • This is the worst grade I’ve gotten all year.
  • I’m so grateful for my mom. My friend has the worst parents.
  • I give the worst gifts. I think I’ll do gift cards this year.

Concluding Thoughts on ‘Worse’ and ‘Worst’

To recap, we’ve discussed that the difference between ‘worse’ and ‘worst’ is that the former is a comparative adjective that means low standard or low quality, unpleasant, or more unfavorable, and the latter is a superlative adjective that describes something of the lowest standard or lowest quality. It’s the extreme version of the word.

If you ever get stuck or need a refresher, pop on back over and browse our library of content. We have an entire library of articles dedicated to explaining confusing words and phrases. Come back whenever you need to.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

Add new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WritingTips.org Newsletter
Receive information on
new articles posted, important topics, and tips.
Join Now
We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.