noun \ ˈfrīt \
|Updated on: 21 Jun 2018

Definition of fright

1 : fear excited by sudden danger : alarm
  • gave me quite a fright
2 : something strange, ugly, or shocking

Examples of fright in a Sentence

  1. Her eyes were wide with fright.

  2. people in our neighborhood think that that orange and green office building is a hideous fright

Recent Examples of fright from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of fright

Middle English, going back to Old English fyrhtu, fyrtho, fryhto (Northumbrian) "fear, dread, source of dread," going back to Germanic *furhtīn- (whence also Gothic faurhtei), noun derivative of *furhta- "frightened, fearful" (whence Old English forht "frightened," Old Saxon foraht, foroht, Old High German forht, foraht, Gothic faurhts), probably going back to Indo-European *pr̥k-to-, adjective from a verbal base *pr̥k-, whence also Tocharian A & B pärsk- "be afraid" (going back to *pr̥k-sk-)
Note: Germanic nouns derived directly from the adjective include Old Frisian fruchte "fear," Old Saxon forhta, Old High German forahta. Indo-European *p(e)rk- is taken by some to be a "root extension" of a hypothetical base *per- "test, risk," which would connect it to 1fear; see note at 1peril.

Synonym Discussion of fright

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




Definition of fright

frighted; frighting; frights
: to alarm suddenly : frighten

Examples of fright in a Sentence

  1. a ghastly sight that would fright even the most stouthearted soul

Origin and Etymology of fright

Middle English frighten, going back to Old English fyrhtan, going back to Germanic *furhtjan- (whence also Old Saxon forhtian "to fear, shy away from," Old High German forahten, furhten, Gothic faurhtjan), verbal derivative of *furhta- "frightened, fearful" — more at 1fright
Note: The causative meaning of the Old English verb is not reflected in the other Germanic forms; Old English also has a weak verb of a different class, forhtian "to fear, be afraid."

fright Synonyms

FRIGHT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of fright for English Language Learners

  • : fear caused by sudden danger : sudden fear

  • : a feeling of sudden fear

  • : something that looks strange, shocking, ugly, etc.

FRIGHT Defined for Kids


noun \ ˈfrīt \

Definition of fright for Students

1 : sudden terror : great fear
2 : something that frightens or is ugly or shocking
  • You look a fright! What happened?

Seen and Heard

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a figure representing a hated person

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