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

Virtual reality allows someone to safely confront a fearful situation, like a war setting for a veteran, or standing atop a dangerously tall building for someone afraid of heights, McGrath said. Kate Thayer, chicagotribune.com, "Virtual reality can help people overcome fear of heights, study shows," 12 July 2018 Some church leaders have offered sanctuary to drug suspects and witnesses to police shootings who are fearful for their lives. Jake Maxwell Watts, WSJ, "Clash Between Duterte and Catholic Church in Philippines Intensifies," 9 July 2018 For the most part, comedians are shy, sensitive, fearful individuals, who fight their fears constantly and who win for only short periods of time, needing repetitively to do battle with the enemy both within and without. Brendan Leonard, Outside Online, "Learning to Be Funny," 9 July 2018 Remembering it put a shock of sweat in his armpits, and his stomach gave a fearful churn. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "A transgender girl rises up against alien invaders in Rich Larson’s novel Annex," 8 July 2018 As October turned to November and NXIVM became the subject of news report after news report, Diana became extremely fearful for her brother’s life. Amelia Harnish, refinery29.com, ""At This Point We Are In Despair": One Woman's Quest To Bring Her Brother Home From NXIVM," 29 June 2018 Residents were outraged — fearful for their safety and angry at a legal system that seemed not to take into account the realities of school shootings. Jess Bidgood, New York Times, "He Wrote Disturbing Plans for a School Shooting. But Was That a Crime?," 4 May 2018 Current state law prohibits people from carrying guns on public or private school property, but has exceptions for police officers, armored truck guards, people who have obtained a restraining order and are fearful for their safety. Joshua Stewart, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Governor candidates split on gun control," 25 Mar. 2018 Restless, fearful and openly needy, Senetra’s W tends to circle these topics. Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Door County theaters add stories and sparkle to summer nights," 11 July 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

26 Aug 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

What made you want to look up fearful? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


alleviating pain or harshness

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