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.

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 Singing and dancing inhabit my entire being and frighten me in a way no other art form has. San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Apr. 2022 Wiener designed missile guidance systems, whose legacy grew to frighten him. Washington Post, 11 Feb. 2022 In the same way, high inflation may frighten retirees, or those planning to retire, whose nest eggs look alarmingly inadequate at 7.5% inflation versus the 2% inflation of years past. Geoff Colvin, Fortune, 13 Apr. 2022 While the specter of prison time may frighten bank executives, the risk to Citi’s muni bond portfolio is scarier. Laurel Brubaker Calkins,, 18 Mar. 2022 In an interview, Best told The Washington Post that Walker positioned local men with spears at the edge of the forest to deter journalists, out of concern for Elizabeth’s privacy and also that the smell of more humans would frighten the wildlife. Washington Post, 4 Feb. 2022 The idea of living with not so much money, and living in a simpler way doesn't frighten her. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 22 Mar. 2022 But the termination threat didn’t frighten the younger man. Joann S. Lublin, WSJ, 19 Mar. 2022 The 100-year-old Decatur man, who was given the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his bravery, said the high speeds at Talladega didn’t frighten him. Howard Koplowitz |, al, 15 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near frighten

fright disease



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Statistics for frighten

Last Updated

30 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Frighten.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for frighten


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

More from Merriam-Webster on frighten

Nglish: Translation of frighten for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of frighten for Arabic Speakers


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