Annus horribilis (pl. anni horribiles) is a Latin phrase, meaning "horrible year". It is complementary to annus mirabilis, which means "wonderful year".

Origin of phrase

The phrase "annus horribilis" was used in 1891 in an Anglican publication to describe 1870, the year in which the dogma of papal infallibility was defined in the Catholic Church.[1]

Elizabeth II


The expression was brought to prominence by Queen Elizabeth II. In a speech at Guildhall on 24 November 1992, marking her Ruby Jubilee on the throne, she said:[2]

1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis.

The "sympathetic correspondent" was later revealed to be her former assistant private secretary, Sir Edward Ford.[3] The unpleasant events which happened to the royal family in this year include:[4]

After her speech had been recorded, one more notable event transpired: the separation of Charles and Diana (9 December).


2019 was described by some commentators as a second annus horribilis for the British royal family. It was the year the 97-year-old Prince Philip crashed his car into another carrying two women and a baby. Later on, Prince Andrew took part in a universally-criticised BBC Newsnight interview about his relationship with convicted child-sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.[5] The Queen was also involved in a constitutional crisis regarding the prime minister Boris Johnson requesting that parliament be prorogued (this advice was later ruled to be unlawful), and there was increased tabloid scrutiny regarding rifts between the Cambridge and Sussex households.[5]

Other uses

Boris Yeltsin

Time magazine described 1998 in Russian politics as an annus horribilis because of Boris Yeltsin's isolationist and militarist policies, the East Asian financial crisis, and Western countries cutting off the reform money that they gave to the Russian government in prior years.[6]

Ben Affleck

Hollywood actor and filmmaker Ben Affleck once described that the year 2003 was his annus horribilis.[7] Affleck starred in the films Daredevil and Gigli, both of which received negative reviews from critics. Gigli was bombed in the box office and drew particular ire from Hollywood critics and moviegoers, which culminated in six wins at the 24th Golden Raspberry Awards. In addition, Affleck and his fiancée and later second wife, Jennifer Lopez, were mocked and criticised by the public for their seemingly accommodating attitudes to and henceforth over-exposure in the tabloid media.[citation needed]

Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, used the phrase in his year-end press conference on 21 December 2004. He reflected: "There's no doubt that this has been a particularly difficult year, and I am relieved that this annus horribilis is coming to an end."[8] His remarks were widely interpreted as having alluded to persistent allegations of corruption in the UN's Iraq Oil-for-Food Program.[9] He also spoke of upheaval and violence in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Palestine, and Sudan; the ongoing process of UN internal reform; and "persistent...criticism against the UN" and himself personally.[8][9] Annan's remarks came five days before the deadliest event of the year (and one of the deadliest natural disasters in history), the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December, when 227,898 people died.

Juan Carlos I

In 2007, the Spanish royal family, in particular King Juan Carlos I, faced a difficult year. Family tragedy and a series of controversies led Spanish newspapers to refer to the year as the king's annus horribilis.[10]

COVID-19 pandemic

The year 2020 was widely remarked as being an annus horribilis for the entire world in general, most notably due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in late 2019 and rapidly spread worldwide throughout 2020.[12][13][14] 2020 was also awarded a "Special Governors' Award for The Worst Calendar Year EVER!" at the 41st Golden Raspberry Awards. At the end of the year, Netflix released Death to 2020, a mockumentary discussing the events of the year.

See also


  1. ^ "Möhler, Döllinger and Oxford Anglicanism". London Quarterly and Holborn Review. Vol. 75. E.C. Barton. 1891. p. 105.
  2. ^ "Annus horribilis speech, 24 November 1992". The Official Website of the British Monarchy. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009.
  3. ^ Corby, Tom (28 November 2006). "Obituary: Sir Edward Ford". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  4. ^ How the royal family bounced back from its 'annus horribilis', The Guardian, 24 May 2012.
  5. ^ a b Murphy, Victoria (21 December 2019). "2019 Was a Car Crash of a Year for the British Royal Family". Town & Country.
  6. ^ TIME Annual 1998: The Year in Review. New York: TIME Books. 1999. p. 58. ISBN 1-883013-61-5. ISSN 1097-5721.
  7. ^ Harris, Mark. "Ben Affleck: No Apologies. No Regrets. No Bulls#*t. October 2012 Issue". Details. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012.
  8. ^ a b "New York, 21 December 2004 – Secretary-General's year-end press conference (unofficial transcript)". Off the Cuff. United Nations, Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General. Archived from the original on 4 February 2005. The Secretary-General Off the Cuff
  9. ^ a b "UN chief welcomes end of 'horrible' year". NineMSN. Associated Press. 22 December 2004. Archived from the original on 13 September 2005.
  10. ^ El "annus horribilis" del Rey Juan Carlos. Archived 6 December 2012 at, La Nación, 15 November 2007.
  11. ^ Barroso, F. Javier (8 February 2007). "Una muerte por ingestión de pastillas". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 11 December 2021.
  12. ^ Doebele, Justin (13 December 2020). "Editor's Sidelines, December 2020: Annus Horribilis". Forbes. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  13. ^ "Annus horribilis: A look back at the top 12 stories of 2020". France 24. 30 December 2020. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  14. ^ Graham, Renée. "In defense of 2020, our annus horribilis - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  15. ^ Kennedy, Hugh (2013). "The Reign of al-Muqtadir (295–320/908–32): A History". Crisis and Continuity at the Abbasid Court: Formal and Informal Politics in the Caliphate of al-Muqtadir (295-320/908-32). Leiden: Brill. pp. 13–47. ISBN 978-90-04-25271-4.