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 Now, as teachers listen to a national conversation about reopening schools that many believe elevates the needs of the economy and working parents above the concerns of the classroom work force, many are fearful and angry. Eliza Shapiro, BostonGlobe.com, "Fear and anger as teachers feel pressure to return to class," 11 July 2020 But while some parents are eager to get back to some sort of normalcy, others are fearful their children might get exposed to infections. Faith Karimi, CNN, "What we know about coronavirus risks to school age children," 10 July 2020 Weil is an immigration historian and, like many French intellectuals, is adamant that a student’s race and religion not be a factor in admissions, fearful that the compilation of racial or religious statistics could be used for the wrong reasons. Rachel Donadio, The Atlantic, "France Is Officially Color-Blind. Reality Isn’t.," 9 July 2020 New federal guidance that international students must take classes in person to legally stay in the United States this fall has left university officials scrambling to adapt while making students fearful of deportation. Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, "It’s America vs. world as coronavirus spreads and hospitalizations rise," 8 July 2020 The pandemic has made Jennifer White, 47, fearful about whether early retirement is possible. Jessica Menton, USA TODAY, "Ouch! COVID-19 is forcing some people to put retirement on hold," 24 June 2020 Those who were able to continue working from home typically had two and a half times more net financial wealth than those working in shuttered sectors, and were significantly less fearful about making ends meet if their income was to dry up. David Meyer, Fortune, "The pandemic’s unequal effects are becoming ever more obvious," 22 June 2020 They were armed with the Doctrine of Discovery, a fearful legal document issued by the Pope that sanctioned the colonization of non-Christian territories. Sunny Dooley, Scientific American, "Coronavirus is Attacking the Navajo 'Because We Have Built the Perfect Human for it to Invade'," 8 July 2020 One man, for example, had read news reports of surging coronavirus cases in the Maryland suburbs and was fearful of leaving the District. Julie Zauzmer, Washington Post, "Ward 8 nursing home will close permanently, leaving patients and families unprepared, advocates say," 7 July 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

30 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Fearful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fearful. Accessed 10 Aug. 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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