\ 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


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

Other Words from fear


fearer noun

Choose the Right Synonym for fear


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 Francis Dietz, a neighbor on Ranger Road who printed those signs, said some residents who’ve taken a stance against the name changes live in fear of being called racist as a result. Antonio Olivo, Washington Post, 15 May 2022 In fear for her life, Kemsley directed the intruders to her valuables. Kevin Rector, Los Angeles Times, 11 May 2022 Putin knows his dream of a new Russian empire that dominates eastern and central Europe and holds Western Europe in fear of Moscow is in dire jeopardy. Steve Forbes, Forbes, 5 May 2022 The judge ruled that Depp had repeatedly assaulted Heard, leaving her in fear for her life. Rebecca Rosenberg, Fox News, 2 May 2022 Whining and hiding in fear is no way to deal with a primary challenger. Charlie Dent, CNN, 1 May 2022 When the pandemic struck the U.S. in March 2020, people pulled away from one another in fear. Alan S. Blinder, WSJ, 28 Apr. 2022 Some experts maintain that people around the world make specific, recognizable faces that express certain emotions, such as smiling in happiness, scowling in anger and gasping with widened eyes in fear. Lisa Feldman Barrett, Scientific American, 27 Apr. 2022 Townspeople are frozen in fear as dark-colored bruises seem to appear on some. Kelly Wynne, PEOPLE.com, 26 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb He was motivated almost exclusively by pride and claimed to fear humiliation more than death. New York Times, 3 May 2022 While many books on the subject look at menopause through a medical lens, The Slow Moon Climbs takes a historical — and wholly positive — approach, positioning it not as a period to fear or dread but as an essential rite of passage to embrace. Stephanie Witmer, Good Housekeeping, 30 Apr. 2022 The pandemic caused Americans to fear for their health. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, 29 Apr. 2022 The specter of Beijing experiencing a lockdown similar to Shanghai’s and the potential knock-on effect on the economy led investors to fear the worst-case scenario, though only time will tell. Brendan Ahern, Forbes, 25 Apr. 2022 Arab Americans’ earned courage will not return us to fear, silence and invisibility. Doris Bittar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 Apr. 2022 But there’s nothing to fear, as there are plenty of options on the market. Chris Hachey, BGR, 17 Apr. 2022 Crump argued Thursday that since the taser was already fired twice, the officer had no reason to fear the nonlethal weapon being used by Lyoya. Paul Best, Fox News, 14 Apr. 2022 Months of deterioration in the government’s financial health coupled with the interruption of normal trade with Ukraine and Russia has given Tunisians reason to fear that the situation will get worse. Washington Post, 14 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of fear


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 3

History and Etymology for fear


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.


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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Time Traveler for fear

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

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Dictionary Entries Near fear



Fear, Cape

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Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Fear.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fear. Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for fear


\ ˈfir How to pronounce fear (audio) \
feared; fearing

Kids Definition of fear

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to be afraid of : feel fear



Kids Definition of fear (Entry 2 of 2)

: a strong unpleasant feeling caused by being aware of danger or expecting something bad to happen


\ 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

More from Merriam-Webster on fear

Nglish: Translation of fear for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fear for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fear


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