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 Some who were not used to yelling were frightened by it, or had not imagined such a thing would happen among women. Larissa Macfarquhar, The New Yorker, "The Radical Transformations of a Battered Women’s Shelter," 13 Aug. 2019 The woman was frightened and allowed Hunter to get in the back seat. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A man carjacked a woman at a Wauwatosa hospital. When the car was found, so was his license, complaint says," 17 July 2019 These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. Leada Gore |, al, "9/11 quotes: #NeverForget; Inspiration as we remember attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," 11 Sep. 2019 And nothing seems to frighten tourism officials quite like a tourist without something to photograph. David Bockino,, "What Myanmar’s bizarre capital tells us about the future of travel," 11 Sep. 2019 Such is the government’s grip that even those artists whose music seems critical of the government are frightened of it being framed that way. New York Times, "A Music Genre Grows in Zimbabwe, Fueled by Rage Against Authority," 7 Sep. 2019 The mystery is a comedy and will at no time have guests frightened or confused. Lois Szymanski,, "Central Carroll: Murder mystery fundraiser invites locals to solve ‘whodunnit’; cornhole tournament," 4 Sep. 2019 With its new policy on ‘‘open carry,’’ McMillon noted in his memo that individuals have tried to make a statement by carrying weapons into its stores just to frighten workers and customers. Anne D’innocenzio,, "Walmart to stop selling handgun ammunition," 3 Sep. 2019 While the shelter's solid and safe, the howling wind and slapping rain that will likely accompany Dorian could frighten and rile up the animals. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "Ahead of Hurricane Dorian, a Florida Humane Society found homes for 250 animals in one week," 3 Sep. 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

27 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for frighten

The first known use of frighten was in 1630

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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

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


something of little or no value

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