fright·​en | \ ˈfrī-tᵊn How to pronounce frighten (audio) \
frightened; frightening\ ˈfrī-​tᵊn-​iŋ How to pronounce frightening (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 frighteningly (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 On Monday, Horstmann frightened his fans by appearing on his Instagram story with a very swollen black eye. Ineye Komonibo,, "BIP Villain Blake Horstmann Started 2020 By Getting Punched In The Face," 8 Jan. 2020 Turkey has frightened and alienated most NATO allies. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Untenable Alliance Is No Turkish Delight," 24 Oct. 2019 Writer-director Jill Culton managed to pull it off, in a way that makes the story appealing to younger kids — what could be cuddlier than big ol’ Bumbles? — without frightening them or boring older kids and parents to death. Chuck Yarborough, cleveland, "‘Abominable’ slips a lesson into a sweet tale of adventure and discovery," 23 Sep. 2019 The idea may be frightening to some, but not for actress Kerry Washington. Jennifer Ford, Essence, "Kerry Washington's 'What's Inside My Purse' Video Is A Must-See," 23 Sep. 2019 The mystery is a comedy and at no time are guests frightened or confused. Sharina Taveras Lopez,, "South Carroll: Mystery dinners at Baldwin’s Station in Sykesville tasking attendees to find ‘Whodunnit’," 18 Sep. 2019 Out on the road, the new V60 will easily frighten any passengers with its acceleration, particularly with a full charge of battery and running in the Polestar Engineered driving mode. Drew Dorian, Car and Driver, "Volvo Builds Us a Boss Wagon," 15 Jan. 2020 The same woman called Hill at home several times, frightening her young daughter, according to two people familiar with the matter. Greg Miller, Anchorage Daily News, "In aftermath of Ukraine crisis, a climate of mistrust and threats," 25 Dec. 2019 Deliberately frightening a child is also abuse, which may indeed escalate as the boy grows older. Abigail Van Buren, Twin Cities, "Dear Abby: Husband’s bullying of young son leads wife to consider leaving," 24 Dec. 2019

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

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Frighten.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for frighten


How to pronounce frighten (audio)

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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