fear

noun
\ ˈfir How to pronounce fear (audio) \

Essential Meaning of fear

1 : an unpleasant emotion caused by being aware of danger : a feeling of being afraid He was trembling with fear. an old story that still has the power to inspire fear [=to make people feel afraid] See More Examplesunable to walk the streets without fear of being mugged They regarded their enemies with fear and hatred/loathing. I've been trying to overcome my fear of flying. He won't say anything for fear of losing his job. [=because he is afraid of being fired] She lived in fear of being caught. = She lived in fear that she would be caught. [=she was always afraid that she would be caught] They lived in (constant) fear of air raids during the war. an accident that struck fear into the hearts of [=frightened] skiers everywhere The doctor's diagnosis confirmed our worst fears. The government is trying to allay/alleviate/ease fears of a recession. Employees expressed fears that the company would go out of business. He told us about all his hopes and fears. She has a morbid fear of cats.Hide
2 : a feeling of respect and wonder for something very powerful fear of God

Full Definition of fear

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger
b(1) : an instance of this emotion
(2) : a state marked by this emotion
2 : anxious concern : solicitude
3 : profound reverence and awe especially toward God
4 : reason for alarm : danger

fear

verb
feared; fearing; fears

Definition of fear (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to be afraid of : expect with alarm fear the worst
2 : to have a reverential awe of fear God
3 archaic : frighten
4 archaic : to feel fear in (oneself)

intransitive verb

: to be afraid or apprehensive feared for their lives feared to go out at night

Other Words from fear

Verb

fearer noun

Choose the Right Synonym for fear

Noun

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

Examples of fear in a Sentence

Noun He was trembling with fear. unable to walk the streets without fear of being mugged They regarded their enemies with fear and hatred. I've been trying to overcome my fear of flying. The doctor's diagnosis confirmed our worst fears. The government is trying to allay fears of a recession. Employees expressed fears that the company would go out of business. He told us about all his hopes and fears. She has a morbid fear of cats. Verb He was a cruel king who was feared and hated by his subjects. There's no need to fear.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Still, the Taliban takeover was met with widespread fear and a deep longing by many to flee their desperately poor homeland despite billions of international money over the 20 years the U.S.-backed governments had been in power. Fox News, 1 Jan. 2022 However, what should give us pause is how nation-state adversaries will use these types of events to create anxiety and fear amongst the American public. Geneva Sands, CNN, 31 Dec. 2021 These millennialists created a climate of fear and hatched conspiracy theories about world governments, communist infiltrators and the anti-Christ that shaped the larger movement. Washington Post, 30 Dec. 2021 Still, the Taliban takeover was met with widespread fear and a deep longing by many to flee their desperately poor homeland despite billions of international money over the 20 years the U.S.-backed governments had been in power. NBC News, 30 Dec. 2021 Read the Story Getting the Shot By Helen Rosner After nearly a year of fear and isolation, the spring of 2021 witnessed the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to New Yorkers as young as sixteen. Naib Mian, The New Yorker, 29 Dec. 2021 The remainder of the grim trailer shows Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman, in a state of fear and confusion as the Riddler starts to mess with his head. Los Angeles Times, 28 Dec. 2021 Leaders in all forms disregard fear and naysayers and simply push them aside as a roadblock in the way of success. Bill Edwards, Forbes, 27 Dec. 2021 Buddy, lightly played on screen by Jude Hill, lives in the midst of his family, in the centre of the street, in the heart of the city where although there is joy, there is growing fear and separation. Lolita Chakrabarti, Variety, 22 Dec. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In the mean time, the New York Times reported, some city leaders fear implementing local mandates will drive officers to leave departments that have already been crippled by mass departures, and at a time when gun violence is surging nationwide. Rebecca Lurye, courant.com, 19 Oct. 2021 Seattle’s police department sent detectives and non-patrol officers to emergency calls this week due to a shortage of patrol officers that union leaders fear will become worse because of vaccine mandates. Celina Tebor, USA TODAY, 19 Oct. 2021 European leaders fear that Afghanistan, a nation of some thirty-eight million people, could produce a refugee crisis reminiscent of the one precipitated by the war in Syria. David Rohde, The New Yorker, 16 Oct. 2021 Seattle’s police department sent detectives and non-patrol officers to emergency calls this week because of a shortage of patrol officers that union leaders fear will become worse because of vaccine mandates. BostonGlobe.com, 16 Oct. 2021 Seattle’s police department sent detectives and non-patrol officers to emergency calls this week because of a shortage of patrol officers that union leaders fear will become worse because of vaccine mandates. Bobby Caina Calvan And John Seewer, Anchorage Daily News, 15 Oct. 2021 Seattle’s police department is sending detectives and non-patrol officers to respond to emergency calls because of a shortage of patrol officers that union leaders fear will become worse because of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, 14 Oct. 2021 Privacy advocates fear these tools may harm students by criminalizing mental health problems and deterring free expression. Nir Kshetri, The Conversation, 9 Nov. 2021 Current vaccine passports don’t dynamically track your location, but privacy advocates fear that governments, law enforcement agencies or private companies could use or misuse apps for purposes like storing personal data or creating movement logs. Jeff Bell, Forbes, 4 Nov. 2021

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

See More

First Known Use of fear

Noun

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

Verb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 3

History and Etymology for fear

Noun

Middle English fer, going back to Old English fǣr, fēr "unexpected danger, peril," going back to Germanic *fēra- or *fēran- (whence also Old Saxon fār "lurking danger," Old High German fāra "ambush, danger," Old Norse fár "evil, mischief, plague"), perhaps going back to a lengthened-grade nominal derivative of a proposed Indo-European verbal base *per- "test, risk" — more at peril entry 1

Note: Attested in Gothic only in the presumed derivative ferja, translating Greek enkáthetos "one put in secretly, spy." Though the etymology proposed above is conventional in dictionaries, the original meaning of the Germanic etymon and its relation to a putative Indo-European *per- are uncertain. See note at peril entry 1. The meaning of the Middle and Modern English noun appears to be derivative of the verb (see fear entry 2) rather than a development of the Old English meaning.

Verb

Middle English feren "to frighten, be afraid of," going back to Old English fǣran, fēran "to take by surprise, frighten," weak verb derivative (as also Old Saxon fāron "to lurk in wait for, frighten," Old High German fārēn "to lurk in wait for, strive, devise ill against," Old Norse færa "to slight, taunt") of Germanic *fēra- or *fēran- — more at fear entry 1

Learn More About fear

Time Traveler for fear

Time Traveler

The first known use of fear was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near fear

fealty

fear

Fear, Cape

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for fear

Last Updated

6 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Fear.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fear. Accessed 16 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for fear

fear

verb
\ ˈfir How to pronounce fear (audio) \
feared; fearing

Kids Definition of fear

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to be afraid of : feel fear

fear

noun

Kids Definition of fear (Entry 2 of 2)

: a strong unpleasant feeling caused by being aware of danger or expecting something bad to happen

fear

noun
\ ˈfi(ə)r How to pronounce fear (audio) \

Medical Definition of fear

1 : an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger and accompanied by increased autonomic activity
2 : an instance of fear

Other Words from fear

fear verb

More from Merriam-Webster on fear

Nglish: Translation of fear for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fear for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fear

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!