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.

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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 When used as a representation for the aspects of ourselves that most frighten us, it is often rendered through embarrassingly on-the-nose grotesqueries—consider Dante's Inferno, an action game with bosses that literally embody the seven deadly sins. Joshua Rivera, Wired, "Video Game Hell Isn’t Nearly Agonizing Enough," 22 Dec. 2020 The Ducks success last season had to frighten the rest of the conference. John Canzano, oregonlive, "Canzano: Oregon Ducks and Mario Cristobal get a gut check vs. Washington," 8 Dec. 2020 Jen Drayton describes herself as an old ICU nurse who doesn’t frighten easily. Guy Boulton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Northwestern Wisconsin hospitals worry they are in the eye of a storm, fear another spike in COVID cases is coming," 26 Nov. 2020 Someone at Chevrolet decided that the failing Corvair could be repositioned as an ideal runabout for women: rear-engined and thus light-steering, gutless enough not to frighten a spinster, cute as a button in pastel colors. Bruce Mccall, The New Yorker, "My Life in Cars," 12 Dec. 2020 The original purpose of carving a frightening face and placing fire inside the pumpkin was to frighten away evil spirits. Kevin Dayhoff,, "Dayhoff: Once popular Wampler’s pumpkin contest a part of Carroll County’s Halloween lore," 23 Oct. 2020 Your unleashed pup could frighten an innocent pedestrian who suffers from a horrible fear of dogs. Danielle Kraese, The New Yorker, "Why Your Dog Needs to Be Leashed During Walks (But Mine Does Not)," 3 Dec. 2020 Run on Hulu is moving the needle forward in a very important way—and will absolutely frighten you in the process. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Run on Hulu Is the Break You Need From All Those Holiday Rom-Coms," 19 Nov. 2020 Gerardo Gutierrez, an employee in Miami Beach, wasn’t allowed to wear his mask back in March because Publix feared that mask-wearing employees would frighten customers, the lawsuit claims. Ron Hurtibise,, "Publix blamed for worker’s COVID-19 death, but lawsuits face long odds," 24 Nov. 2020

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

12 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Frighten.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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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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