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 Some hospitals have started locking away their supplies, fearful that patients or even staff might steal the gear for their own use. Megan Thielking, STAT, "Frustrated and afraid about protective gear shortages, health workers are scouring for masks on their own," 18 Mar. 2020 So fearful was Indianapolis about the disease, an anti-spitting campaign was launched in 1921 to curb public spitting. Dawn Mitchell, Indianapolis Star, "How Indiana has fought back against past disease outbreaks," 16 Mar. 2020 Abdullah said the experience left his youngest daughter feeling fearful of anyone in uniform and his older daughter angry at them. Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A Milwaukee dad was pepper-sprayed when he tried to order at Buffalo Wild Wings. Now he's suing for discrimination.," 11 Mar. 2020 Her voice breaking, Haleyi said the assault had destroyed her confidence and optimism, and made her fearful of dating. Melissa Chan, Time, "Harvey Weinstein Sentenced to 23 Years on Rape, Sex Assault," 11 Mar. 2020 He was pushed into making that assurance by spectacular losses in U.S. stocks as investors turned fearful that the spreading virus would significantly damage the American and global economies. Fortune, "Fed ready to cut rates despite doubt they can fix virus fallout," 1 Mar. 2020 Anytime you fearful of fouling, that’s kind of what happened. Adam Himmelsbach, BostonGlobe.com, "Frustrated by refereeing, Celtics’ winning streak snapped by loss to Houston," 12 Feb. 2020 Either way, Hamill makes a joke of these men, showing them weak and petty and fearful. Maya Phillips, The New Yorker, "A “Dracula” for the Age of #MeToo," 11 Feb. 2020 An anxious or fearful cat may crouch down to the ground, arch its back, lower its head, and flatten its ears. Popular Science, "We’re surprisingly bad at reading cats’ facial expressions," 3 Feb. 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

24 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Fearful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fearful. Accessed 29 Mar. 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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