fright·​en | \ ˈfrī-tᵊn How to pronounce frighten (audio) \
frightened; frightening\ ˈfrī-​tᵊn-​iŋ How to pronounce frighten (audio) , ˈfrīt-​niŋ \

Definition of frighten

transitive verb

1 : to make afraid : terrify The movie scene frightened the child.
2 : to drive or force by frightening frightened the boy into confessing

intransitive verb

: to become frightened She doesn't frighten easily.

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Other Words from frighten

frighteningly \ ˈfrī-​tᵊn-​iŋ-​lē How to pronounce frighten (audio) , ˈfrīt-​niŋ-​lē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for frighten



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Examples of frighten in a Sentence

The story really frightened me. The child was badly frightened by the mask.
Recent Examples on the Web China's growing dominance should frighten every democracy, even our own. Kent Wong, Star Tribune, "I swam for freedom to Hong Kong. Now it is sunk," 1 Apr. 2021 At the time, the woman recalls Epstein had guns in his possession which were displayed to her in order to frighten and intimidate her. al, "Lawsuit: Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficked rape victim to a judge," 31 Mar. 2021 That stature and implicit power can frighten victims into silence., "Police have long had a haphazard, lax response to domestic violence within the ranks," 19 Mar. 2021 Their deaths are part of a growing campaign of terror by the junta to frighten and quell a widespread opposition movement at a time of deepening international condemnation against military rule. David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, "Myanmar’s military sows fear and terror in nighttime raids," 12 Mar. 2021 Instead, protect your stuff from the damp, choose gear wisely, layer up, and don’t let the thermometer readings frighten you out of enjoying the season. Alisha Mcdarris, Popular Science, "Winter camping is a great way to see more nature and fewer people," 12 Dec. 2019 If this were not enough to frighten bond investors, the flood tide of red ink implies that tremendous federal borrowing will create a huge supply of new debt and an inevitable downward pressure on bond prices. Milton Ezrati, Forbes, "Bonds Send A Warning," 1 Mar. 2021 The amount being asked for is, quite obviously, intended to frighten people of faint heart. Haley Victory Smith, Washington Examiner, "Dominion CEO avoids $1.3B question on whether Giuliani cost firm contracts," 25 Jan. 2021 Among the Democrats, the left has the energy, but its policies frighten most Americans. Karl Rove, WSJ, "2020 Autopsies for Both Parties," 23 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'frighten.' 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 frighten

1630, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for frighten

fright entry 1 + -en entry 2

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Time Traveler for frighten

Time Traveler

The first known use of frighten was in 1630

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Statistics for frighten

Last Updated

6 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Frighten.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for frighten



English Language Learners Definition of frighten

: to cause (someone) to become afraid
: to become afraid


fright·​en | \ ˈfrī-tᵊn How to pronounce frighten (audio) \
frightened; frightening

Kids Definition of frighten

: to make afraid : terrify

Other Words from frighten

frighteningly adverb

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Comments on frighten

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