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 One friend is fearful of an ailing spouse who doesn’t leave her home except to go food shopping, while another recently vacationed in Maine and had flown to visit friends and family in New Jersey. Bea Lewis, sun-sentinel.com, "Does risk outweigh benefit for daughter’s visit? | Opinion," 16 Oct. 2020 Meanwhile, political prognosticators with little exposure to the campaign trail themselves due to the coronavirus and no experience polling in a pandemic are fearful of seeing their Trump election predictions proven wrong again. W. James Antle Iii, Washington Examiner, "Do rallies still matter? COVID-19 election tests value of traditional campaigning," 14 Oct. 2020 The virus has already killed more than 42,000 people in Britain, and health officials are fearful of another serious wave this winter. David Goodman, Bloomberg.com, "Johnson Set to Tighten Rules as U.K. Coronavirus Cases Mount," 11 Oct. 2020 And even with the recent approval of limited indoor dining, Augarten said most customers are fearful of eating inside. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, "The Dish: Gaslamp’s Water Grill, Lou & Mickey’s hoping for a home run with baseball playoffs," 29 Sep. 2020 But the nature of the rise stands out: VIX futures cost more going into the end of the year and less early in 2021, a sign investors are fearful of turmoil that lasts into December. Amrith Ramkumar And Julia-ambra Verlaine, WSJ, "Investors Ramp Up Bets on Market Turmoil Around Election," 27 Sep. 2020 Although a Biden win would raise the specter of higher taxes and regulation (especially if control of the Senate falls to the Democrats), investors have grown less fearful of that outcome. Matt Egan, CNN, "Trump's Covid-19 diagnosis is another market-moving wild card," 5 Oct. 2020 The case earlier this month also highlighted that fearful locals appear to be turning on each other. Paul Tilsley, Fox News, "ISIS militants wreak havoc in Mozambique, killing more than 1,000 in insurgency," 30 Sep. 2020 Only Morrissey has dared to record a song addressing citizens who take to fearful compliance. Armond White, National Review, "Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On Is a Political Decoy," 30 Sep. 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

22 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Fearful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fearful. Accessed 30 Oct. 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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Comments on fearful

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