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

That reality makes the fear of missing out a powerful force—and means that the trend can feed on itself. Charley Grant, WSJ, "Fear of Missing Out Drives Stock Performance," 13 July 2018 The irrational fear of the number 13 is now called triskaidekaphobia. Lily Puckett, Teen Vogue, "8 Origins, Myths, and Superstitions That Explain Friday the 13th," 12 July 2018 Native American playwright Larissa FastHorse has written a clever, biting script about the near pathological fear of liberal-minded Americans to make racial, gender and ethnic faux pas and offend people unintentionally. Mitchel Benson, sacbee, "‘Thanksgiving Play’ gone off the rails? That’s the genius in Capital Stage's comedy," 5 July 2018 Initially, the main fear was directed at fifth columnists, who were thought to be taking root in Hollywood. Noah Isenberg, The New Republic, "Making the Movies Un-American," 3 July 2018 That’s the fear of one U.K. cabinet minister, who noted the U.S. president called off military exercises with South Korea right after seeing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Ethan Bronner, Bloomberg.com, "Inside the Thwarted Venezuelan Military Coup," 28 June 2018 In other words, for all the liberal fears that Kennedy will be replaced with someone like Gorsuch, the ideological distance between Kennedy and Gorsuch is vanishingly small. Terrell Jermaine Starr, The Root, "We’re Fucked," 27 June 2018 That’s too short a time to reflect conscious processes and likely reveal implicit fears. Leslie Henderson, Scientific American, "Why Our Brains See the World as "Us" versus "Them"," 22 June 2018 Those who came by sea—especially the children—will harbor a fear of the ocean for years to come. Robin Hammond, National Geographic, "After Fleeing War, Refugee Children Face Lasting Psychological Trauma," 20 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

People shouldn’t fear retaliation for trying to help those dogs. Cathy M. Rosenthal, San Antonio Express-News, "When to walk your dog to avoid the heat," 13 July 2018 Some bystanders may also fear becoming the target of violence. Darcel Rockett, chicagotribune.com, "Familiar questions about ‘bystander effect’ arise after man berates woman for Puerto Rico shirt," 12 July 2018 That’s particularly true of Collins; Murkowski probably doesn’t fear any general election opponent in strongly Republican Alaska. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "How Maine Democrats Can Save Roe v. Wade," 10 July 2018 Don't fear the swarm of drones 'attacking' the Capitol on Wednesday Advertisement On Wednesday, February 21, Black Sage, a drone-tech company based in Boise, will stage a mock drone attack on the Capitol. Gretel Kauffman, idahostatesman, "More than 300 new Idaho laws go into effect July 1. Here are the ones you should know.," 25 June 2018 Don't fear the new streetcars — but keep an eye out for them. Mary Spicuzza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Hop safely: Milwaukee releases tips for driving, walking and biking near 'The Hop' streetcars," 20 June 2018 Its ghosts are American ghosts: praising liberty, but not all of it; fearing the unknown, the stranger, the different, the sojourner, preferring them to keep their voices to themselves. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "What two fictional Gileads can teach us about America in 2018," 12 July 2018 Just as many allies had feared, President Trump came out swinging at NATO’s annual summit in Brussels. latimes.com, "Today: The Tussles in Brussels," 12 July 2018 On April 10, the Centers for Disease Control warned against eating any romaine lettuce from anywhere in the country, fearing it might be contaminated with E. coli. Emily Atkin, The New Republic, "America’s Enduring Failure to Prevent Food-Borne Illness," 9 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

7 Sep 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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