fear·​ful | \ˈfir-fəl \

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 intensive a fearful wastefearful slum conditions

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Other Words from fearful

fearfully \ ˈfir-​f(ə-​)lē \ adverb
fearfulness \ ˈfir-​fəl-​nəs \ 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

Some become fearful or withdrawn, while others become aggressive or defensive. WSJ, "Relaxation Guide For Stressful Times," 3 Nov. 2018 And Tottenham is also fearful of losing a key player—but for a very different reason. Tom Roddy, Newsweek, "Premier League Transfer News: Everton to Pounce on Arsenal Star, Manchester United Closes in On Rival’s Target," 14 Mar. 2018 Consumer watchdogs are fearful that the FCC could decide that if consent to receive robocalls is part of the fine print of a contract, the consumer would never be able to revoke such consent. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "Could a tsunami of robocalls be heading to our cell phones?," 5 July 2018 As a result, much of the country is increasingly fearful that political violence is coming. Angela Helm, The Root, "Poll: One-Third of Americans, Nearly Half of Black People Think We’re Headed for Another Civil War," 29 June 2018 Democrats at 37 percent were slightly more fearful of a second civil war than Republicans at 32 percent, the poll from Rasmussen Reports found. Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY, "Poll: Almost a third of US voters think a second civil war is coming soon," 27 June 2018 These are the people who are most angry and fearful of the gangs. Joe Garofoli, SFChronicle.com, "This West Coast governor is gaining 2020 presidential attention," 10 July 2018 On the day the government rushed to reunite dozens of families separated at the border, one immigrant father showed up to a federal appointment downtown fearful that he would be deported without his 6-year-old son. Esmeralda Bermudez, latimes.com, "'You don’t love me anymore?': A son is separated from his father at the border, then comes a wrenching call," 11 July 2018 Some withdraw and are only given to violence when provoked by the fearful masses. Joshua Rivera, GQ, "How America Makes People into Monsters," 20 June 2018

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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Statistics for fearful

Last Updated

18 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for fearful

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

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More Definitions for fearful



English Language Learners Definition of fearful

: feeling fear

: showing or caused by fear

: very bad or extreme


fear·​ful | \ˈfir-fəl \

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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Comments on fearful

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