\ 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 Most other casual gardeners can safely prune the thorns for safety’s sake without fear of damaging the tree. oregonlive, 6 Aug. 2022 The freedom to send one’s kids to school without fear of a madman armed with an AR-15. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, 5 Aug. 2022 Executive privilege generally protects a president's ability to obtain candid counsel from advisers without fear of immediate public disclosure, though there are limits. Eric Tucker, ajc, 4 Aug. 2022 Executive privilege generally protects a president’s ability to obtain candid counsel from advisers without fear of immediate public disclosure, though there are limits. Eric Tucker, Chicago Tribune, 4 Aug. 2022 But the finding could force the United States to go further, Mr. Graham said on Wednesday, by adding new restrictions to how third-party countries could interact with Russia without fear of American penalties. New York Times, 29 July 2022 Complete strangers can buy and sell coins using anonymous wallets without fear of being shortchanged. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 29 July 2022 Garland told NBC News in a Tuesday interview that the department pursues justice ‘’without fear or favor. BostonGlobe.com, 27 July 2022 Workers are still seeking a legal commitment to neutrality, which gives them the right to unionize freely and without fear of retaliation. Wired, 24 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Russia’s attack on Ukraine has focused attention in Suwalki on civil-defense preparations, even among people who don’t fear an invasion. Daniel Michaels, WSJ, 7 Aug. 2022 Already occurring more often, heat waves are forecast to increase in potency and duration because of climate change, say scientists – who fear the globe is ill-prepared to handle the punishing toll. Dinah Voyles Pulver, USA TODAY, 5 Aug. 2022 Moreover, customers who fear an infection with Cronobacter sakazakii should contact a doctor. Chris Smith, BGR, 4 Aug. 2022 That is what worries U.S. officials and others who fear that China’s retaliation could raise the risk of a military miscalculation with grave consequences, potentially drawing in other regional powers and U.S. allies such as Japan and Australia. Lily Kuo, Washington Post, 3 Aug. 2022 There is a long list of Republicans who fear that Greitens' political baggage would put what should be a relatively safe GOP seat in jeopardy come November. Paul Steinhauser, Fox News, 3 Aug. 2022 Russia has turned Europe’s largest nuclear power plant into a fortress, stymying Ukraine’s forces and unnerving locals who fear both shelling and a radiation leak. New York Times, 1 Aug. 2022 Even some of the sincere conspiracists who fear Beyoncé’s dark powers seem to be welcoming her signaling of the Lord’s smiting of it all. Wired, 31 July 2022 Summit County prosecutors have encouraged district parents who fear school officials may not have properly reported allegations to authorities to call Utah Child Protective Services at 855-323-3237 or Summit County dispatchers at 435-615-3600. Courtney Tanner, The Salt Lake Tribune, 15 July 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

10 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Fear.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fear. Accessed 12 Aug. 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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