fright·​en | \ ˈfrī-tᵊn How to pronounce frighten (audio) \
frightened; frightening\ ˈfrī-​tᵊn-​iŋ How to pronounce frighten (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.

Other Words from frighten

frighteningly \ ˈfrī-​tᵊn-​iŋ-​lē How to pronounce frighten (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 Joulupukki isn't necessarily an evil creature in the legends, although his goat-like appearance was said to frighten children. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 24 Dec. 2021 Without the military backing of a superpower, Cuban communism lost its ability to frighten anyone — and may have become more appealing to a certain audience. Samuel Goldman, The Week, 30 July 2021 Nick Saban’s reputation as a joyless, monochromatic football dictator whose glare would melt Antarctica and whose rage could frighten statues back to life was never a complete picture of the man or the coach. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, 1 Jan. 2022 Lucile and the Salmon River in that area are just a ridge away from Oregon, and news of the dreaded disease that close is enough to frighten every wildlife biologist west to the Pacific Ocean. oregonlive, 3 Dec. 2021 In another situation, the scammer will call in an attempt to frighten victims with health care plans. Kiersten Willis, ajc, 15 Nov. 2021 Butts, a former Santa Monica police chief, added that given the enormous scale of the public transit system, there was no reason to try to frighten people with crime numbers. Los Angeles Times, 28 Nov. 2021 American Black Hawk helicopters swooped over the runway, attempting to frighten people away from the flight line. Jane Ferguson, The New Yorker, 21 Oct. 2021 But for now ghost cities are an investment target that does not frighten. Nicholas Gordon, Fortune, 5 Oct. 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near frighten

fright disease



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Statistics for frighten

Last Updated

24 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Frighten.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on frighten

Nglish: Translation of frighten for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of frighten for Arabic Speakers


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