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 fear, however, hasn’t seemed to put a dent in sales. Rani Molla, Recode, "Voice tech like Alexa and Siri hasn’t found its true calling yet: Inside the voice assistant ‘revolution’," 12 Nov. 2018 And public space ceases to be public if people can’t freely use it—including using it free of fear that they will be inaccurately profiled by humans or autonomous systems. Diana Budds, Curbed, "Facial recognition is becoming one of the 21st century’s biggest public space issues," 19 Oct. 2018 After decades of war, bitter divisions, and distrust of the government, many residents welcomed the takeover as the lesser evil, finding hope in the militants’ promise: a better life, rule of law, a place where Sunni Muslims could live without fear. Sophia Jones, Marie Claire, "The Truth About The Wives of ISIS," 4 Oct. 2018 Markey said the consolidation among major airlines has reduced competition, and that has allowed the airlines to increasingly rely on fees to boost their profits without fear of losing customers. Kevin Freking, Fox News, "US House approves $1.7 billion in disaster aid for Carolinas," 28 Sep. 2018 What helped shake me out of that first year of grief was deciding to put my son's childhood first and trying to focus on that instead of dwelling on the fear of what was happening to me. Kara Wahlgreen, Good Housekeeping, "Life With Cancer Isn’t a Life Diminished," 19 Sep. 2018 There were women still living in fear of retaliation. Jessica Press, Redbook, "Women Need to Know They Don't Have to Take Bullying in the Workplace," 19 Sep. 2018 Some messages played on their targets’ fears of being hacked. Raphael Satter, BostonGlobe.com, "Long-hidden hackers unmasked by special counsel investigation," 13 July 2018 The peso tumbled on fears of a debt crisis and inflation. The Economist, "Investors are gorging on American assets," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

That’s what critics fear may end up happening with Marsy’s Law. German Lopez, Vox, "How 2018 voters could change America’s criminal justice system," 6 Nov. 2018 There’s always fear and awkwardness for a beginner. Cassie Lynn Lambert, SELF, "4 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Lifting Weights," 16 Sep. 2018 Blindness is more feared than the loss of memory, speech, hearing or a limb, research shows, but it is also misunderstood. Peg Rosen, Good Housekeeping, "Blindness Can't Stop Me from Living the Life I Want to Live," 14 Sep. 2018 Some fear that the airlines will use the pilot shortage to push for relaxation of the 1,500-hour rule. Barbara Peterson, Condé Nast Traveler, "How the Pilot Shortage Could Change the Way We Fly," 21 Aug. 2018 Europeans also may have feared these wild-looking dogs, as Audubon did, and tried to wipe them out, Perri says. David Grimm, Science | AAAS, "America’s first dogs lived with people for thousands of years. Then they vanished," 5 July 2018 The Drawbacks As with any sort of activism that seeks to adjust societal norms, the skin-acceptance movement hasn't seen its way through without backlash from people who fear it or fail to understand it (the two often go hand in hand). Kaleigh Fasanella, Allure, "What the Skin-Acceptance Movement Means for People With Conditions Like Mine," 29 June 2018 In the weeks before the summit, alliance leaders feared Trump would try to blow everything up, dealing a truly severe blow to the multilateral world order and to trans-Atlantic deterrence and cohesion. BostonGlobe.com, "At NATO, Trump claims allies make new defense spending commitments after he upends summit," 13 July 2018 The parties the founders feared competed strongly with each other in both urban and rural areas. The Economist, "America’s electoral system gives the Republicans advantages over Democrats," 12 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

16 Nov 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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