1 of 2


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


2 of 2


frighted; frighting; frights

transitive verb

: to alarm suddenly : frighten
Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of fright in a Sentence

Noun Her eyes were wide with fright. people in our neighborhood think that that orange and green office building is a hideous fright Verb a ghastly sight that would fright even the most stouthearted soul
Recent Examples on the Web
There are plenty of noisy jump scares Many of the frights play with the idea of sound and silence, since the aliens hunt based on noise. Benjamin Vanhoose, Peoplemag, 28 June 2024 The natural world evolved many pop culture frights long before storytellers used them to terrify us. Big Think, 24 June 2024
For anyone into sheer terror with a side of entertainment, streaming services like Shudder can fright and delight. Jennifer Jolly, USA TODAY, 22 Dec. 2022 See all Example Sentences for fright 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fright.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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 fear entry 1; see note at peril entry 1.


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 fright entry 1

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."

First Known Use


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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of fright was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near fright

Cite this Entry

“Fright.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


: fear caused by sudden danger : sudden terror
cry out in fright
: something that is strange, ugly, or shocking
your hair looks a fright

More from Merriam-Webster on fright

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