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


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

Research also is showing how badly the noises frighten wildlife, causing mother birds to abandon their nests or broods, and many mammals to run away in attempt to escape the sounds — sometimes running right into traffic or other pitfalls. Joan Morris, The Mercury News, "July 4th — The day we Bay Area-ites torture pets and wildlife with our fireworks," 3 July 2019 The shelters are quickly approaching their largest intake of the year — July 5, the date after fireworks can frighten dogs into running from home due to anxiety. Claire Rafford, azcentral, "Quarantine lifted at Maricopa County animal shelter in Mesa after extended closure," 2 July 2019 To the very end, even with a noose around his neck, Francesco believed that his American neighbors only meant to frighten him, to teach his family a lesson. Frank Viviano, The New York Review of Books, "Atrocities America Forgot," 6 June 2019 Snakes are also associated with witchcraft because sorcerers use them to perform black magic to frighten or injure an enemy. Maurice Oniang'o, National Geographic, "Rare vipers are being poached in Kenya—but some people are grateful," 4 Apr. 2019 Not many without LeBron James were noble enough to challenge them and talented enough to frighten them. Ben Cohen, WSJ, "The Houston Rockets Have a Warriors Hangover," 12 Dec. 2018 The implications of such a polarizing election are also frightening to some. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s Trumpian candidate, narrowly misses outright victory," 8 Oct. 2018 That’s just frightening how much you guys have planned out that far in advance. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, "This Is Us Will Reveal 'All the Answers' Next Week, So Get Ready," 15 Jan. 2019 Nyong'o worked with longtime stylist Micaela Erlanger to assemble the much talked-about Us press tour wardrobe, which has fans delighted, frightened, and glued to Instagram to see what's next. Glamour, "We Need to Talk About Lupita Nyong'o's Us Promo Looks," 28 Mar. 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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Statistics for frighten

Last Updated

7 Jul 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 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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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

Comments on frighten

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