Could not find an existing duplicate question, but this may be due to not know how to describe the word/feeling!

For example, given the following sentence:

Francis could not look away from the blood-drenched vampire. The blood-soaked clothes and shimmering fangs were X

And X is specifically drawing upon the fact that the appearance is horrifying, horrible, scary, etc.

Similar words that come to mind but are generic in their motivation: hypnotic, transfixing

First question on this Stack so apologies if poor formatting!

  • 1
    Your own suggestion 'transfixed' (or transfixing) is as good as the others. A thesaurus lookup on transfix gives a lot more. None of them are exactly 'transfix' and 'horror', but many are related to fear. 'scared stiff' is exactly it, but not a present participle which is the slot you gave.
    – Mitch
    Mar 25, 2019 at 14:43

5 Answers 5


According to the Oxford online dictionary the verb to petrify means by its primary definition

Change (organic matter) into a stony substance by encrusting or replacing it with a calcareous, siliceous, or other mineral deposit.

However it has the secondary, originally metaphorical, definition of

Make (someone) so frightened that they are unable to move

The the present paticiple of to petrify is petrifying which would fit well into your sentence.

  • Ah, if only there was a mix between @Ibf's 'stunned' suggestion and this! I think I am going to mark your answer as correct as it did answer my question. Thank you so much!
    – user333412
    Mar 25, 2019 at 0:50
  • 2
    True, but quite the same as transfixed, which fits the context.
    – Kris
    Mar 25, 2019 at 6:43
  • 3
    @Kris - Hmm, you can definitely be transfixed by the beauty of something, I'm not sure I've ever heard of someone being petrified by beauty, other than in the sense of being too scared to talk to them.
    – AndyT
    Mar 25, 2019 at 12:07
  • 1
    @kris That is an alternative but the ODO definition of transfix includes transfixtion with horror, wonder, or astonishment whereas the dictionary definition of petrify includes only petrification by fear in the metaphorical sense.
    – BoldBen
    Mar 25, 2019 at 21:49

As in:

The blood-soaked clothes and shimmering fangs stunned him.

stunned TFD

  • to shock or overwhelm
  • to surprise or astound
  • See my comment at BoldBen.
    – Kris
    Mar 25, 2019 at 6:43

I don't have an issue with the correct answer, but I don't think "petrifying" actually scans very well. I'm surprised nobody mentioned:


Capturing one's complete attention as if by magic.
‘a mesmerizing stare’
  • 1
    Mesmerising doesn't capture the element of horror, but to be fair, neither do the OP's examples along that vein.
    – Théophile
    Mar 25, 2019 at 16:51

You could use horror-struck (or horror-stricken). The word corresponds exactly to the question in the title (i.e., "the feeling of being transfixed from horror"), although your example sentence is slightly different in that it asks for a word that describes the source of horror.

So although we couldn't say that the "bload-soaked clothes were horror-striking", we could say that "Francis was horror-struck by the bload-soaked clothes".


horrified so as to be overwhelmed or incapacitated


Frozen also carries the sense of "blood running cold with fear"

  • 3
    Please provide a source for your answer.
    – JJJ
    Mar 25, 2019 at 13:49
  • Hi rhararg, welcome to EL&U. This isn't a bad start, but it's too short: the system has flagged it as "low-quality because of its length and content." An answer on EL&U is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct. It's best if you edit your answer to provide more information - e.g., add a relevant published definition of frozen (linked to the source) and say why it suits the context. For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour. :-) Mar 29, 2019 at 21:31

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