I am looking for a single-word which distinctly means "to captivate the attention in a profound and stupefying way", but such that it would carry a strong connotation of this "captivated attraction" or "calling" being due, very distinctly, to a tragedy.

For example: "The affixed ears of England were (single-word for suddenly being captivated by some great tragedy) by the King's untimely death."

or for another example: if you had to put the adjoined phrase: "Distraughtly fascinated" in one word.

  • 2
    Do you really mean affixed ears? They wouldn't be much use if they were detached. (Like Edwin, I was thinking of transfixed, but you couldn't really use both words in the same sentence.) Apr 19, 2020 at 16:37
  • Most true indeed, but the sentence is rather meaningless to my ultimate question, I wrote it as a display rather then what I need the word distincly for. Thank you most certainly. Apr 19, 2020 at 17:09
  • Reminds me of the boy who had his ear nailed to the stocks in Game of Thrones. Be careful not to overwrite and thus distract the reader.
    – Xanne
    Apr 19, 2020 at 20:40
  • Do you really want a verb, or will an adjective do? Apr 20, 2020 at 3:59
  • @KateBunting: 'affixed' means 'stuck/attached/fasten to something else', i.e. not their own ears, e.g. reindeer ears or whatever, think of the cast of Blackadder wearing fake ears or cow costumes or suchlike.
    – smci
    Apr 20, 2020 at 10:26

5 Answers 5


'Transfix' usually involves (and therefore has a strong connotation of) something horrendous being the cause.

She stared at him, transfixed.

transfix: cause (someone) to become motionless with horror, wonder, or astonishment.


  • 2
    'transfixed' usually connotes it's due to something you actually saw (or less likely, heard). But if it was due to, say, reading a book, or sympathizing with something more remote and abstract, 'poignant' would be more fitting.
    – smci
    Apr 20, 2020 at 10:28

"Aghast" would seem to express this feeling (OALD).

  • The affixed ears of England were aghast at the news of the King's untimely death."
  • agog might be better? Apr 20, 2020 at 11:37
  • @WillCrawford On my OALD, this word is not far from "aghast", they are on the same page! To stick to meaning, though, I don't think it worth a comparison; the element concerning tragedy is badly missing; worse, the idea of tragedy needed is contradictory to the idea of excitement that is communicated by "agog": (SOED) in eager readiness, expectant (OALD) excited and very interested to find something out.
    – LPH
    Apr 20, 2020 at 12:53
  • Absolutely! I thought agog captures the "caught in the headlights" better; but "aghast" isn't bad at all - hence my question mark! You're right. Apr 20, 2020 at 13:12

"Devastated" may work in your example.

The affixed ears of England were devastated by the King's untimely death


emotionally shattered or distraught



A word that equates to an ongoing and specifically negative captivation with something is horrified:

[Merriam-Webster: horrify]
horrified, horrifying

1 : to cause to feel horror
2 : to fill with distaste : SHOCK

1 a : painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay
// astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me
— H. G. Wells

Modifying the example sentence slightly:

All of England was horrified by the King's untimely death.


From https://www.dictionary.com/vocabulary/riveting

Riveting is an adjective for things that really draw you in, like a book you read in one sitting or a song you turn up so you can hear every lyric. Beautiful scenes are riveting, but terrible and ugly things are also riveting, like the site of an accident you can't stop looking at. Words from a teacher or actor have a riveting effect when they're full of impact and interest, and when you exaggerate a story for your best friend, that's riveting too.

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