I was told that at one time the superlative "worst" was not correct. It used to be "bad worse worse"rather than "bad worse worst".

Is this true? If so, when did the change take place?

Thank you.

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1. First of all, here is the etymology of the word "worst."

O.E. wyrresta, from P.Gmc. *wers-ista- (cf. O.S. wirsista, O.N. verstr, O.Fris. wersta, O.H.G. wirsisto), superlative of PIE *wers- "to confuse, mix up" (see worse). The verb meaning "damage, inflict loss upon" is first recorded 1602, from the adj. Phrase in the worst way (1839) is from Amer.Eng. sense of "most severely."

note: O.E. means Old English

2. From "Allwords.com"

1. Most bad, awful or unpleasant, etc.
2. Most grave, severe, acute or dire.
3. Most inferior; lowest in standard.
Thesaurus: poorest, lowest, least.

1. The worst thing, part or possibility.
2. The most advanced degree of badness.

1. Most severely; most badly.

worsted, worsting
1. To defeat someone; to get the better of them.
Thesaurus: vanquish, subdue, overpower, defeat, conquer, best, subjugate, beat.

Idiom: at its etc worst
In the worst state or severest degree.

Idiom: at worst (at the worst)
In the worst possible circumstances.

Taking the most unfavourable or pessimistic view.

Idiom: do your worst
An indignant expression rejecting or defying a threat, etc.

Idiom: get the worst of something (come off worst in something)
To lose a fight or argument, etc.

Idiom: if the worst comes to the worst
If the worst happens.

Etymology: Anglo-Saxon wyrst, the adjective form used as a superlative of bad and ill.

3. From my dictionary:

Main Entry: [1]worst
Pronunciation: 'w&rst
Function: adjective, superlative of <sc>bad <it>or of <sc>ill
Etymology: Middle English werste, worste, from Old English wierresta, wyrsta, superlative of the root of Old English wiersa worse
Date: before 12th century
1 : most corrupt, bad, evil, or ill
2 a : most unfavorable, difficult, unpleasant, or painful b : most unsuitable, faulty, unattractive, or ill-conceived c : least skillful or efficient
3 : most wanting in quality, value, or condition
- the worst way : very much <such men�c need indoctrination the worst way —J. G. Cozzens> — often used with in <wanted a new bicycle in the worst way>

Therefore the adjective is "bad," the comparative is "worse" and the superlative is still "worst."

It has not changed. Whoever told you that is incorrect!

bad, worse, worst <~~the correct forms of this adjective

Scroll down to Degrees of adjectives.


The correct forms of the adjective "bad" are "worse" for the comparative and "worst" for the superlative. This has not changed over time. The adjective "bad" has an Old English origin, and the superlative form "worst" comes from the Old English word "wyrresta," which is the superlative of the root that "wiersa" (meaning worse) is derived from. So, the correct forms are "bad, worse, worst."