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

Relations have also been strained by tit-for-tat trade tariffs between Mexico and the U.S. amid tense negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and fears of a trade war. Susannah George, BostonGlobe.com, "We can’t afford to replace empathy with apathy," 13 July 2018 Rescuers faced daunting challenges, from decreasing oxygen levels and fears of further flooding. Casey Quackenbush, Time, "After a Successful Cave Rescue, Thailand's Navy SEALs Will Add Cave-Diving to Their Training," 13 July 2018 Ironically, even if fear of foreign competition accelerated factory automation, workers were not eligible for TAA. Michael Hicks, Indianapolis Star, "Hicks: Finally, a government answer to job losses caused by automation," 8 July 2018 Between fears of Zika, West Nile, dengue fever, and other diseases, mosquitos are starting to feel like less of an annoying pest and more like a seriously scary health threat. Sarah Klein, Health.com, "A Florida Teen Is the First Human to Catch This Virus From a Mosquito," 25 June 2018 Officers who interview those seeking asylum at the border and review refugee applications have been directed to immediately reject claims based on fears of gang violence and domestic abuse, CNN reported on Thursday. Sarah Kinosian, Teen Vogue, "Reunification Proves Complicated for Families Separated at the U.S.-Mexico Border," 14 July 2018 The park’s Facebook post had been shared more than 6,400 times in two days and drawn 1,000-plus comments, many expressing fear. Mark Price, charlotteobserver, "A white rattlesnake? Texas park posts photo of ‘cryptic’ viper known for potent bite.," 13 July 2018 Shark recalls a fear of playing a foreign country without the proper resources. Billboard, "The Down Underdogs: Australian Alternative Artists on Making it Big in America and at Home," 13 July 2018 The attack made policymakers around the world fret that an equally homicidal but more effective terrorist group might one day obtain weapons of mass destruction—a fear that contributed to the Iraq war in 2003. The Economist, "On the hanging of Shoko Asahara, Japan’s nerve-gas guru," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Emissions from the fires were contributing to global warming, it was feared, and the harvesting of wood for cooking was helping to diminish forests, one of nature’s carbon-absorbing bulwarks against greenhouse gases. Sara Morrison, USA TODAY, "In developing world, an expensive push to reduce cooking fire deaths falls short," 13 July 2018 But officials had second thoughts after hearing from parents and fearing the fee could be challenged in court. Susan Demar Lafferty, Daily Southtown, "Lincoln-Way backs off $50 'participation fee' for all students," 28 June 2018 Tammye, a god-fearing mother and wife, wears many hats and does not take time for herself (tale as old as time). Michaela Bechler, Vogue, "This Is Exactly How Much You’ll Cry During Queer Eye Season Two," 15 June 2018 At the time, White House officials feared Baum might be leaking to the press, according to interviews with knowledgeable officials. Robert O'harrow Jr., Anchorage Daily News, "Promoted six times and then fired: A 24-year-old political appointee's wild ride in Trump's Washington," 15 June 2018 Edgar Valdez Villareal came from humble beginnings, one of eight children raised by strict, hard-working and God-fearing parents in the southwest Texas border town of Laredo. Bill Rankin, ajc, "Drug kingpin ‘La Barbie’ gets 49-year sentence for ‘despicable’ crimes," 11 June 2018 The victim, who had testified about fearing for her life during the incident, declined to comment after the verdict. Marc Freeman, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Deputy convicted of attempted rape," 13 July 2018 It was announced this morning (July 9) that the queen and Prince Philip would not make the trip to the Chapel Royal at St. James' Palace due to a busy schedule this week (not because of health concerns as some had feared). Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Aren't Prince Louis' Godparents—Here's Why," 9 July 2018 Anti-government conservatives had long feared that democracy would facilitate the many to confiscate the resources of the few; meanwhile demographic change has overlaid a parallel ethnic pessimism. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "The Anti-Trump Right Has Become Trump’s Base," 3 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

5 Oct 2018

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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