Wednesday 21 March 2007

Ask About English!!! Q24 'a killer'

Hi there,

I´d like to check the word "killer" when used as an adjective, esp. informally. My belief that it must always imply sth totally negative has been shattered since I chanced upon it being used as an apparently positive expression. E.g., when a work of art was reviewed with admiration and the artist replied, "Thank you for your killer review". The expression obviously has a double meaning: while "a killer cold" is self-eloquent, phrases like "a killer smile" or "killer shoes" sound less unquestionable to me. Is the latter widely understood as synonymous to "formidable" (i.e.having to do with awe)and is it limited to inf. (or poss. Am) English?

Thank you.


Your understanding of the usage of killer is fine.

Killer (adj):
slang having impressive or effective power or impact

It is an informal usage of the word but it's widely understood in English-speaking countries. I believe that it is more commonly used in American English than in British English and as you pointed out, it can be quite confusing.

Common examples are:

she has a killer smile, killer shoes; the company made killer profits this year.

But what about a killer tomato? Is it impressive or should you be scared?.............

Killer biscuits would normally be great but read this...

I'm going to bed now; I have a killer headache.........

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