fear

noun
\ ˈfir How to pronounce fear (audio) \

Definition of fear

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger
b(1) : an instance of this emotion
(2) : a state marked by this emotion
2 : anxious concern : solicitude
3 : profound reverence and awe especially toward God
4 : reason for alarm : danger

fear

verb
feared; fearing; fears

Definition of fear (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to be afraid of : expect with alarm fear the worst
2 : to have a reverential awe of fear God
3 archaic : frighten
4 archaic : to feel fear in (oneself)

intransitive verb

: to be afraid or apprehensive feared for their lives feared to go out at night

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from fear

Verb

fearer noun

Choose the Right Synonym for fear

Noun

fear, dread, fright, alarm, panic, terror, trepidation mean painful agitation in the presence or anticipation of danger. fear is the most general term and implies anxiety and usually loss of courage. fear of the unknown dread usually adds the idea of intense reluctance to face or meet a person or situation and suggests aversion as well as anxiety. faced the meeting with dread fright implies the shock of sudden, startling fear. fright at being awakened suddenly alarm suggests a sudden and intense awareness of immediate danger. view the situation with alarm panic implies unreasoning and overmastering fear causing hysterical activity. the news caused widespread panic terror implies the most extreme degree of fear. immobilized with terror trepidation adds to dread the implications of timidity, trembling, and hesitation. raised the subject with trepidation

Examples of fear in a Sentence

Noun

He was trembling with fear. unable to walk the streets without fear of being mugged They regarded their enemies with fear and hatred. I've been trying to overcome my fear of flying. The doctor's diagnosis confirmed our worst fears. The government is trying to allay fears of a recession. Employees expressed fears that the company would go out of business. He told us about all his hopes and fears. She has a morbid fear of cats.

Verb

He was a cruel king who was feared and hated by his subjects. There's no need to fear.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

At that point, a person can show symptoms like confusion, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, insomnia, drooling, difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia, fear of water. Minali Nigam, CNN, "Most rabies infections in the United States come from bats, CDC says," 12 June 2019 More than any other major championship, the U.S. Open is designed to instill fear in players. Brian Costa, WSJ, "Brooks Koepka’s Winding Path to Become Golf’s No. 1 Player," 12 June 2019 Bell, the National Reverse Mortgage Lending Association president, said lenders would prefer to extend the deadlines for older borrowers but fear violating HUD guidelines. USA Today, "Seniors were sold a risk-free retirement with reverse mortgages. Now they face foreclosure.," 12 June 2019 Such fears were palpable across the political spectrum in France and the Netherlands, said Mr Ercolessi. Erasmus, The Economist, "Europe’s secularists worry about the rise of Christian-nativist populism," 11 June 2019 Yet the desire to score drugs from the comfort of home and to make money from selling those drugs appears for many to be stronger than the fear of getting arrested. New York Times, "Dark Web Drug Sellers Dodge Police Crackdowns," 11 June 2019 The reunion was a joyful one on both sides— despite Janiga's fear that her dog might now know her or her husband anymore, Hazel remembered. Emma Keith, Detroit Free Press, "Traverse City dog returns home months later after 73 days missing," 11 June 2019 In Britain, the movement blossomed into the Fabian Society, they who based their thought and action entirely on the fear that wages were or might come to be higher than the old standard of subsistence. Marilynne Robinson, Harper's magazine, "Is Poverty Necessary?," 10 June 2019 There is a particular fear that games of soccer risk becoming on-field lawsuits, where crucial moments are endlessly re-litigated. Musa Okwonga, Quartz Africa, "How to make the case for and against VAR—video assistant referee—in the beautiful game," 10 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The idea fell short in previous years and lawmakers rejected it again, fearing retribution from voters. Alexei Koseff, SFChronicle.com, "Where Gov. Gavin Newsom wins and loses in newly passed California budget," 13 June 2019 In Dallas, many in the black LGBTQ community fear a serial killer is targeting black transgender women. NBC News, "Murders of black transgender women in Dallas raise fears in LGBTQ community," 10 June 2019 While extradition is only supposed to be allowed for specified matters that are also crimes in Hong Kong, many fear the passage of the law, which is set to be voted on in the coming week, would further curtail free speech and protest in the city. Tripti Lahiri, Quartz, "Photos: Hong Kong has got its protest mojo back," 9 June 2019 The lawsuit says Tynes faced death threats and harassment on social media and – fearing for her safety – temporarily left the country. Joel Shannon, USA TODAY, "'All-white company' wrongly accused immigrant author of racism, $13M lawsuit claims," 8 June 2019 Stan Lee's mutants have always been a metaphor for any marginalized group, anyone hated and feared for the strength of their identity. Peter Rubin, WIRED, "Goodbye X-Men—You Flawed, Frustrating Cinematic Revolution," 7 June 2019 That's artist, and now memoirist, Chris Rush for you. Hitchhiking, drugs, near-death experiences; god-fearing families in New Jersey and experimental academies in California. Elena Nicolaou, refinery29.com, "35 Outstanding LGBTQ+ Books Of 2019," 7 June 2019 With great love for someone comes a fierce protective nature, and Max fears for the child's life multiple times. Samantha Incorvaia, azcentral, "'The Secret Life of Pets 2' boasts three story lines, one heartfelt theme," 5 June 2019 At the time of the Tiananmen massacre, Hong Kong, then a British colony, saw the gunfire and feared for its future under Chinese rule. Laignee Barron / Hong Kong, Time, "30 Years Later, Hong Kong Still Harbors the Spirit of Tiananmen," 4 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fear.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of fear

Noun

12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 3

History and Etymology for fear

Noun

Middle English fer, going back to Old English fǣr, fēr "unexpected danger, peril," going back to Germanic *fēra- or *fēran- (whence also Old Saxon fār "lurking danger," Old High German fāra "ambush, danger," Old Norse fár "evil, mischief, plague"), perhaps going back to a lengthened-grade nominal derivative of a proposed Indo-European verbal base *per- "test, risk" — more at peril entry 1

Note: Attested in Gothic only in the presumed derivative ferja, translating Greek enkáthetos "one put in secretly, spy." Though the etymology proposed above is conventional in dictionaries, the original meaning of the Germanic etymon and its relation to a putative Indo-European *per- are uncertain. See note at peril entry 1. The meaning of the Middle and Modern English noun appears to be derivative of the verb (see fear entry 2) rather than a development of the Old English meaning.

Verb

Middle English feren "to frighten, be afraid of," going back to Old English fǣran, fēran "to take by surprise, frighten," weak verb derivative (as also Old Saxon fāron "to lurk in wait for, frighten," Old High German fārēn "to lurk in wait for, strive, devise ill against," Old Norse færa "to slight, taunt") of Germanic *fēra- or *fēran- — more at fear entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about fear

Dictionary Entries near fear

feal

feal and divot

fealty

fear

Fear, Cape

feared

fear for

Statistics for fear

Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for fear

The first known use of fear was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for fear

fear

noun

English Language Learners Definition of fear

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: an unpleasant emotion caused by being aware of danger : a feeling of being afraid
: a feeling of respect and wonder for something very powerful

fear

verb

English Language Learners Definition of fear (Entry 2 of 2)

: to be afraid of (something or someone)
: to expect or worry about (something bad or unpleasant)
: to be afraid and worried

fear

verb
\ ˈfir How to pronounce fear (audio) \
feared; fearing

Kids Definition of fear

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to be afraid of : feel fear

fear

noun

Kids Definition of fear (Entry 2 of 2)

: a strong unpleasant feeling caused by being aware of danger or expecting something bad to happen

fear

noun
\ ˈfi(ə)r How to pronounce fear (audio) \

Medical Definition of fear

1 : an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger and accompanied by increased autonomic activity
2 : an instance of fear

Other Words from fear

fear verb

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on fear

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fear

Spanish Central: Translation of fear

Nglish: Translation of fear for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fear for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fear

Comments on fear

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to take the place or position of

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!