fear·​ful ˈfir-fəl How to pronounce fearful (audio)
: causing or likely to cause fear, fright, or alarm especially because of dangerous quality
a fearful storm
: full of fear
fearful for his safety
: indicating or arising from fear
a fearful glance
: inclined to fear : timorous
: very great or bad
used as an intensive
a fearful waste
fearful slum conditions
fearfully adverb
fearfulness 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 Even people used to the ruckus of urban living jolt awake, fearful and then furious. Mike Baker, New York Times, 29 May 2024 Youngsters often feel alone, fearful, anxious and traumatized. Baltimore Sun Editorial Board, Baltimore Sun, 7 May 2024 This still makes Amber Sax and the families of the other Marines who died with her husband fearful. Julia Marnin, Sacramento Bee, 23 May 2024 Many workers were fearful of attacks and wanted escorts. Rachel Uranga, Los Angeles Times, 23 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for fearful 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fearful.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near fearful

Cite this Entry

“Fearful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fearful. Accessed 16 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


fear·​ful ˈfi(ə)r-fəl How to pronounce fearful (audio)
: causing fear
the fearful roar of a lion
: filled with fear
fearful of danger
: showing or caused by fear
a fearful glance
: extremely bad, large, or intense
fearful cold
fearfully adverb
fearfulness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on fearful

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