fear

noun
\ ˈfir How to pronounce fear (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Before seeking help, many people with BDD avoid getting diagnosed out of fear and shame. Stephanie Dubick, SELF, "How to Show Up for Someone You Love With Body Dysmorphic Disorder," 16 Apr. 2019 The gain marks a turnaround from a severe contraction in February and helped put investor fears over a global economic slowdown in check. Alex Veiga, The Seattle Times, "S&P 500 notches 3rd straight weekly gain as US stocks rally," 14 Apr. 2019 The resulting image, with its curved lines and many labels, evoked a map, the collection of fractured desires and fears. Ian Malone, Vogue, "The Public Art Fund Hosts a Fine Art Game Night," 12 Apr. 2019 The action Thursday against Chams Exchange and its owner, Kassem Chams, comes amid building fears within Lebanon that the U.S. could jolt the fragile Lebanese economy by targeting the financial sector more broadly. Ian Talley, WSJ, "U.S. Treasury Sanctions Lebanese Currency Exchange," 11 Apr. 2019 The far-right loves to drum up fear and resistance to immigrants. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Said Climate Change and Immigration Are Connected — Here's Why She's Right," 11 Apr. 2019 But choosing to see one means choosing to look at the mysteries of the universe not with fear, but curiosity. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "How They Got the Black Hole Picture That Changed Science," 10 Apr. 2019 On the surface, the Wilsons are just like many of us in today’s digital age: Completely disconnected from each other and engrossed in their own needs, desires, and fears. Candice Frederick, Harper's BAZAAR, "Us Offers a Terrifying Vision of Judgement Day," 26 Mar. 2019 Our worst fears were realized even more so later, when Ducky confronted Gibbs (Mark Harmon) about his plans. Megan Stein, Country Living, "Is Ducky Leaving 'NCIS'?," 13 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But Adelaide’s worst fears become reality that night. Candice Frederick, Harper's BAZAAR, "Us Offers a Terrifying Vision of Judgement Day," 26 Mar. 2019 Later in December 2018, Grinnell’s union organizers withdrew their expansion request because organizers feared that the rejection of their request would harm other college unions’ organizing efforts. Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, "Education Workers on Campuses Around the Country Are Demanding Better Labor Conditions," 10 Jan. 2019 Many Congolese, however, fear that the elections will be rigged and Shadary will win no matter what. German Lopez, Vox, "Vox Sentences: A shutdown for Christmas," 22 Dec. 2018 After years of fearing carbs, Silicon Valley is in love with bread — and, of course, tech bros are disrupting the 6,000-year-old craft of making dough. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Black Friday is the busiest time of year for professional line sitters," 21 Nov. 2018 Idle time and solitude are to be sought, not feared. Jim Michaels, WSJ, "When It Comes to Retirement, I’m With Cicero," 11 Jan. 2019 Americans justifiably fear that robots are going to take our jobs. Joe Queenan, WSJ, "Robots Will End Up Goofing Off Like the Rest of Us," 14 Mar. 2019 Beth fears giving up her new teaching job to suit her family's needs. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, "This Is Us Producers Answer All Your Questions About Kate and Toby's Baby," 13 Mar. 2019 Many fear that a peace agreement with the Taliban will erode the faltering progress made since their ouster. Kathy Gannon, The Seattle Times, "Powerful political leader warns against squandering peace," 20 Feb. 2019

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about fear

Dictionary Entries near fear

feal

feal and divot

fealty

fear

Fear, Cape

feared

fear for

Statistics for fear

Last Updated

20 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for fear

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for fear

fear

noun

English Language Learners Definition of fear

 (Entry 1 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

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

: to be afraid of (something or someone)
: to expect or worry about (something bad or unpleasant)
: to be afraid and worried

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

What made you want to look up fear? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

not to be persuaded, moved, or stopped

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

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!