fright·en | \ˈfrī-tᵊn \
frightened; frightening\ˈfrī-tᵊn-iŋ, 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, ˈfrīt-niŋ-lē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for frighten


alarm (also alarum), fright, horrify, panic, scare, shock, spook, startle, terrify, terrorize



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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

Using a surgical blade is frightening to me because one, somebody got their hands on it, too, to put it in to cause injury. Natalie Dreier, ajc, "Woman says she was cut by razor blade stuck in Walmart shopping cart handle," 10 July 2018 Having policymakers in Washington attack our right to exist by law is frightening on a level that is difficult to describe. Dana Rose Falcone,, "Transgender Actress Indya Moore Hopes Pose Will Help Trump's White House ‘See Our Humanity’," 1 June 2018 Here’s his explanation of why men are frightened of women. Laurie Penny, Longreads, "Peterson’s Complaint," 12 July 2018 Willis thanked everyone for their comments and assured his friends he wasn't frightened at all. Jennifer Earl, Fox News, "Great white shark sneaks up on California kayaker fishing for halibut," 6 July 2018 Should the thought of Thursday morning not frighten you away from filling Independence Night with fireworks and celebration, Central Florida has plenty of free patriotic parties. Trevor Fraser,, "Fireworks still a good reason to gather," 28 June 2018 Front Street, Bradshaw and other shelters are bracing for their busiest weeks of the year, when the bangs and pops of celebratory fireworks frighten animals and send them running. Cynthia Hubert, sacbee, "Free pet microchips available in Sacramento County before Fourth of July," 19 June 2018 Kelly was brave, Rachel said, so being the lone employee working overnight didn’t frighten her. Juliet Muir, NBC News, "Missing persons case of Virginia mother Kelly Bergh-Dove remains unsolved 36 years later," 17 June 2018 No, the subject matter didn’t frighten me as much as doing a one-woman show. Roslyn Sulcas, New York Times, "Carey Mulligan, Facing the Fear of Being Alone Onstage," 13 June 2018

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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Statistics for frighten

Last Updated

13 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for frighten

The first known use of frighten was in 1630

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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 \
frightened; frightening

Kids Definition of frighten

: to make afraid : terrify

Other Words from frighten

frighteningly adverb

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Comments on frighten

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


to reject or criticize sharply

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