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


affright, alarm (also alarum), fright, horrify, panic, scare, scarify, 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

Some of the largely Honduran migrants were frightened when about 500 people in an affluent district of Tijuana staged angry protests Sunday against the caravan. Julie Watson, The Seattle Times, "Caravan migrants weigh options after court blocks Trump ban," 20 Nov. 2018 But most congressional Republicans are frightened of Mr Trump’s supporters and keen to hold the line against the Democrats, who are gunning for their jobs in the mid-term elections in November. The Economist, "Trump demands that those investigating him be investigated," 24 May 2018 Zimmer and the friend are not OHS students, but an OHS student saw the video, was frightened by it and reported it to police. Steven Martinez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Man who threatened to shoot up Oconomowoc High School as 'a joke' gets probation, community service," 18 June 2018 The Grand Guignol — whose dark and lurid stage shows (with fake blood spurting) were designed to frighten its audiences — neatly matched Dr. Gordon’s interests in theatrical history and grotesque cultural phenomena. Richard Sandomir,, "Mel Gordon, drama scholar of the fringe; 71," 31 Mar. 2018 Some haunt operators are still frightened by the idea of touching guests. Valerie Bauerlein, WSJ, "New Immersive Haunted Houses Mean More Thrills for Guests—More Rules for Zombies," 26 Oct. 2018 McCarthy stated repeatedly that no one had ever frightened him the way Ramos did. William Cummings, USA TODAY, "'Most dangerous person I've ever dealt with': Lawyer feared newspaper murder suspect," 29 June 2018 When construction began in March, the zoo’s staff was concerned that the noise would frighten the animals — particularly the elephants, who have extremely sensitive hearing. Mary Carole Mccauley,, "As Maryland Zoo continues its $20 million renovation, some animals will be out of view," 7 June 2018 Investors also were frightened off by the high vacancy rate and more than $1.1 billion in debt coming due in February. Peter Grant, WSJ, "When Other Property Investors Bid High, Brookfield Goes Low," 13 Nov. 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

6 Jan 2019

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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More from Merriam-Webster on frighten

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with frighten

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for frighten

Spanish Central: Translation of frighten

Nglish: Translation of frighten for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of frighten for Arabic Speakers

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