fear·​ful | \ ˈfir-fəl How to pronounce fearful (audio) \

Definition of fearful

1 : causing or likely to cause fear, fright, or alarm especially because of dangerous quality a fearful storm
2a : full of fear fearful for his safety
b : indicating or arising from fear a fearful glance
c : inclined to fear : timorous
3 : very great or bad used as an intensivea fearful wastefearful slum conditions

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Other Words from fearful

fearfully \ ˈfir-​f(ə-​)lē How to pronounce fearfully (audio) \ adverb
fearfulness \ ˈfir-​fəl-​nəs How to pronounce fearfulness (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for fearful

fearful, apprehensive, afraid mean disturbed by fear. fearful implies often a timorous or worrying temperament. the child is fearful of loud noises apprehensive suggests a state of mind and implies a premonition of evil or danger. apprehensive of being found out afraid often suggests weakness or cowardice and regularly implies inhibition of action or utterance. afraid to speak the truth

Examples of fearful in a Sentence

He plays the role of a timid and fearful clerk. They won the war but at a fearful cost.
Recent Examples on the Web Growth rates in all three states are trending lower than the broader economy, according to Facteus' analysis, perhaps because many residents have become fearful of going out. Megan Cerullo, CBS News, "Phone data show consumers avoiding stores, restaurants as COVID surges," 2 July 2020 Farmers and communities are fearful of the damage to crops and rangeland, harming income and food supplies, all while dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Alan Taylor, The Atlantic, "Photos: The Locust Swarms of 2020," 1 July 2020 Many of these cuts have affected teachers, support staff, and other workers in schools nationwide, leaving educators fearful that jobs and spending may never return to past levels. Tony Romm, BostonGlobe.com, "More than 700 cash-strapped cities halt plans to repair roads, water systems or make other key investments," 27 June 2020 In interviews, Syrian rebel commanders, apparently fearful of crossing secretive Turkish officials, insisted for months that the deployments to Libya were not happening at all, even as pictures of Syrian fighters in Libya were circulating widely. Zakaria Zakaria, Washington Post, "These Syrian militiamen were foes in their civil war. Now they are battling each other in Libya.," 25 June 2020 The impact of a fearful world is upon us all the time. Avis D. Carlson, Harper's Magazine, "The Jitters," 23 June 2020 Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. Bruce Bartlett, The New Republic, "Conservatives Might Want to Reconsider Their Love for Winston Churchill," 22 June 2020 Now, two years later and in the midst of the pandemic, the possibility of a repeat of 2018 lingers among lawyers and migrants today, fearful of what could happen with the children. Silvia Foster-frau, ExpressNews.com, "Immigrant mother: ‘They tried to separate my daughter from me’," 4 June 2020 The plaques commemorate a fearful, also faintly absurd, litany of shipwrecks, fires, drownings, gassings, and rail or street-traffic disasters. Brian Dillon, The New Yorker, "Lessons in Valor and Its Myths, from London’s Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice," 20 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fearful.' 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 fearful

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fearful

Middle English feerful, fereful "inspiring dread, frightened," from fer fear entry 1 + -ful -ful entry 1

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Time Traveler for fearful

Time Traveler

The first known use of fearful was in the 14th century

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Statistics for fearful

Last Updated

6 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Fearful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fearful. Accessed 9 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for fearful


How to pronounce fearful (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of fearful

: feeling fear
: showing or caused by fear
: very bad or extreme


fear·​ful | \ ˈfir-fəl How to pronounce fearful (audio) \

Kids Definition of fearful

1 : causing fear the fearful roar of a lion
2 : filled with fear I was fearful of failing the test.
3 : showing or caused by fear a fearful expression

Other Words from fearful

fearfully \ -​fə-​lē \ adverb
fearfulness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on fearful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fearful

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with fearful

Spanish Central: Translation of fearful

Nglish: Translation of fearful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fearful for Arabic Speakers

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