1 of 3


dreaded; dreading; dreads

transitive verb

: to fear greatly
can't swim and dreads the water
a dreaded disease
archaic : to regard with awe
: to feel extreme reluctance to meet or face
dread the future
dreaded telling him the truth
dread the thought of speaking in public

intransitive verb

: to be apprehensive or fearful
dread not


2 of 3


: great fear especially in the face of impending evil
were filled with dread by reports of another terrorist attack
: extreme uneasiness in the face of a disagreeable prospect (see prospect entry 1 sense 4c)
dread of a social blunder
archaic : awe
: one causing fear or awe
the days of wooden ships and wooden homes, when fire was an omnipresent dreadF. W. Saunders
: dreadlock sense 1
trimming each dread
dreads plural : dreadlock sense 2
looked great in dreads


3 of 3


: causing great fear or anxiety
dread diseases
: inspiring awe
our dread king
Choose the Right Synonym for dread

fear, dread, fright, alarm, panic, terror, trepidation mean painful agitation in the presence or anticipation of danger.

fear is the most general term and implies anxiety and usually loss of courage.

fear of the unknown

dread usually adds the idea of intense reluctance to face or meet a person or situation and suggests aversion as well as anxiety.

faced the meeting with dread

fright implies the shock of sudden, startling fear.

fright at being awakened suddenly

alarm suggests a sudden and intense awareness of immediate danger.

view the situation with alarm

panic implies unreasoning and overmastering fear causing hysterical activity.

the news caused widespread panic

terror implies the most extreme degree of fear.

immobilized with terror

trepidation adds to dread the implications of timidity, trembling, and hesitation.

raised the subject with trepidation

Example Sentences

Verb He can't swim and dreads going in the water. She dreaded making speeches in front of large audiences. I dread the day I will have to leave my friends. I dread the thought of moving next week. I dread to think about what they might do next. Noun She has a dread of failure. He lives with the constant dread of rejection. She awaited her punishment with dread. The news about the war fills me with dread. They live in constant dread of another attack. Adjective every ship on the Spanish Main was terrified of running into the dread pirate See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Many students dread summer reading lists, which makes perfect sense—summer is for gardening, and winter is for reading. Susan Brownstein, cleveland, 14 Dec. 2022 However, PET scans can cost thousands of dollars, and many patients dread a lumbar puncture to collect spinal fluid. Kelly Servick, Science | AAAS, 21 July 2021 National Weather Service veteran staff meteorologist Steve Freitag, whose last name means Friday in German, said that Friday could be a day for Michigan utilities and their customers to dread. Bill Laytner, Detroit Free Press, 28 Feb. 2023 After a few chapters of Jake Bittle's new book, readers may start to dread meeting his characters. The Arizona Republic, 22 Feb. 2023 But Boushey sees reason for optimism, even as others dread the political gridlock. Bysteve Mollman, Fortune, 29 Dec. 2022 By meditating on the fragility of time, Stoics seek not to instill dread, but to reveal death and transience as natural aspects of the human experience that can be faced without anxiety. Melinda Latour, The Conversation, 16 Aug. 2022 The American public appears to dread a rematch between its two oldest Presidents, and both of them are viewed unfavorably by a majority of the public. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, 22 Nov. 2022 And once again, whatever excitement had previously been felt quickly turned to dread. Fidel Martinez, Los Angeles Times, 18 Nov. 2022
Amid the pervasive sense of dread in the texts, there were also moments of gallows humor. Mark Landler, New York Times, 7 Mar. 2023 Even the most veteran players have begun to feel a sense of dread in the pit of their stomachs when a lead begins to slip away. Julia Poe, Chicago Tribune, 3 Mar. 2023 Not when everything is fine, but in times of dread. Meredith Maran, Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 2023 People also use it to express embarrassment, shame, a sinking sense of dread, or feeling overwhelmed in some way. Jennifer Jolly, USA TODAY, 21 Feb. 2023 But the feelings of dread, of being just slightly overwhelmed and under-resourced, of feeling like there really is a rogue AI working against you, should be easier to access in this game than the original. Kevin Purdy, Ars Technica, 10 Feb. 2023 In the meantime, the rumbling of trains still inspires dread in a community where few people do not know someone who died because of the fiery derailment. Ian Austen, New York Times, 24 Feb. 2023 The thought of standing shirtless—in a harness, no less—in a crowd of better bodies gyrating to electronic music has only ever sparked dread for me. Todd Plummer, Condé Nast Traveler, 24 Feb. 2023 Her dread materialized when José, who once played on the school football team, died in late January. Dallas News, 7 Feb. 2023
Nation/World Natasha Bevard looked at the pile of unopened financial statements and felt a sense of dread swell within her. Alex Horton, Anchorage Daily News, 27 Feb. 2023 Natasha Bevard looked at the pile of unopened financial statements and felt a sense of dread swell within her. Alex Horton, Washington Post, 27 Feb. 2023 The sense of dread mounts as other officers stretch crime-scene tape around the perimeter of her yard. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 18 Feb. 2023 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dread.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Verb, Noun, and Adjective

Middle English dreden, from Old English drǣdan

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of dread was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near dread

Cite this Entry

“Dread.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dread. Accessed 24 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 verb
: to fear greatly
: to be very unwilling to meet or face


2 of 3 noun
: great fear especially in the face of approaching harm
archaic : awe entry 1
: one causing fear or awe


3 of 3 adjective
: causing great fear or anxiety
a dread disease

More from Merriam-Webster on dread

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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