fear

noun
\ ˈfir \

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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Meanwhile, the privacy fears around Facebook have raised concerns about how Oculus will surveil its users. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "The Verge 2018 tech report card: AR and VR," 30 Dec. 2018 Contrary to the fear that children of working mothers are at risk, the results of the study reveal quite the opposite. Samantha Boardman, Marie Claire, "I'm a Working Mom—How Do I Not Feel Guilty?," 6 Nov. 2018 As the final sign, Pisces has absorbed every lesson — the joys and the pain, the hopes and the fears — learned by all of the other signs. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "Each Zodiac Sign's Unique Personality Traits, Explained by an Astrologer," 28 Oct. 2018 Don’t let fear that your friend will be upset stop you from seeking help. Cassie Shortsleeve, SELF, "12 Ways to Show Up for a Friend With Bipolar Disorder," 20 Dec. 2018 There have long been fears/rumors/speculation that Microsoft will move to a monthly Windows subscription model for consumers, but there are no signs that this is happening. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Microsoft is putting together a Microsoft 365 subscription for home users," 13 Dec. 2018 Design: Amy Armani From taking a new job to speaking out about something that doesn't feel right at your current one, there are plenty of opportunities in your work life to feel fear. Leah Melby Clinton, Marie Claire, "5 Pieces of Career Advice You've Never Heard Before," 13 Dec. 2018 Can the trendy new packaging help women predict their future fertility, or does all that data just fuel more baby-making fears? Macaela Mackenzie, Glamour, "Do You Need a Fertility Test—Even If You’re Not Trying to Get Pregnant?," 13 Dec. 2018 If your jaw just dropped to the floor, fear not: there's always Kilian's ready-to-buy creations, like the warm and spicy gourmand Princess (left). Harper's Bazaar Staff, Harper's BAZAAR, "17 Over-the-Top Beauty Treatments to Try Before Your Wedding Day," 13 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Those fearing how upzoning will change neighborhood character, the traditional NIMBY argument, will be further alienated. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Here’s what a plan to tackle climate change, density, and affordability looks like," 27 Nov. 2018 If your food processor doesn't come with a grating attachment, never fear. Audrey Bruno, SELF, "The Easiest Ways to Prep a Bunch of Brussels Sprouts at Once," 25 Oct. 2018 But as families continue to shrink and the number of middle children dwindles, there is real reason to fear. Adam Sternbergh, The Cut, "The Extinction of the Middle Child," 11 July 2018 There are emotional breakdowns and revelations, like those from the son of poor Guatemalan immigrants who fears relinquishing any of his American bounty and from the recent widow reluctant to part with her late husband’s clothes. Pamela Druckerman, Marie Claire, "The Life-Changing Magic of Marie Kondo," 21 Dec. 2018 Many who fear being nabbed by death squads have also fled to El Salvador, Honduras and Florida. Maria Verza, The Seattle Times, "In Nicaragua, political violence spurs migration," 25 Oct. 2018 The election of a president who had been, among other things, caught on tape making gleefully misogynistic remarks inspired a credible panic in some women and others who feared their civil rights might soon be further jeopardized. Margaret Lyons, New York Times, "‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 2 Is Brutal and Not Much Else," 11 July 2018 Germany's energy relationship with Russia has long frustrated Washington and Eastern Europe, who fear that the Nordstream pipeline that bypasses the Baltic nations and Poland could be used to cut them off from crucial energy supplies. Michael Birnbaum, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump says Germany 'is captive to Russia' in fiery opening salvo against NATO," 11 July 2018 Heavy rains in the morning cleared during the day, a reassuring sign for rescuers who have feared monsoon rains could imperil the rescue. Time, "Divers Begin Third Mission to Free Remaining Boys Trapped in a Flooded Thai Cave," 10 July 2018

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.

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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

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Learn More about fear

Dictionary Entries near fear

feal

feal and divot

fealty

fear

Fear, Cape

feared

fear for

Statistics for fear

Last Updated

12 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for fear

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

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More Definitions for fear

fear

verb

English Language Learners Definition of fear

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to be afraid of (something or someone)

: to expect or worry about (something bad or unpleasant)

: to be afraid and worried

fear

noun

English Language Learners Definition of fear (Entry 2 of 2)

: an unpleasant emotion caused by being aware of danger : a feeling of being afraid

: a feeling of respect and wonder for something very powerful

fear

verb
\ ˈfir \
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 \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on fear

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fear

Spanish Central: Translation of fear

Nglish: Translation of fear for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fear for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fear

Comments on fear

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