panic

1 of 3

adjective

pan·​ic ˈpa-nik How to pronounce panic (audio)
1
: of, relating to, or resembling the mental or emotional state believed induced by the god Pan
panic fear
2
: of, relating to, or arising from a panic
panic buying
panic selling
a panic retreat
3
: of or relating to the god Pan
Panic rites

panic

2 of 3

noun

1
a
: a sudden overpowering fright
also : acute, extreme anxiety
b
: a sudden unreasoning terror often accompanied by mass flight
widespread panic in the streets
c
: a sudden widespread fright concerning financial affairs that results in a depression of values caused by extreme measures for protection of property (such as securities)
2
dated slang : someone or something that is very funny : riot
panicky adjective

panic

3 of 3

verb

panicked ˈpa-nikt How to pronounce panic (audio) ; panicking

transitive verb

1
: to affect with panic
2
: to cause to laugh uproariously
panic an audience with a gag

intransitive verb

: to be affected with panic

Did you know?

Panic comes to us from French panique, which in turn derives from Greek panikos, meaning literally "of Pan." Pan is the pipe-playing, nymph-chasing Greek god of fertility, pastures, flocks, and shepherds. (His name is a Doric contraction of paon, meaning "pasturer.") He also has a rather dark side - his shout is said to have instilled fear in the giants fighting the gods, and the Greeks believed him responsible for causing the Persians to flee in terror at the battle of Marathon. Panic entered our language first as an adjective suggesting the mental or emotional state that Pan was said to induce. The adjective first appeared in print at the beginning of the 17th century, and the noun followed about a century later.

Choose the Right Synonym for panic

fear, dread, fright, alarm, panic, terror, trepidation mean painful agitation in the presence or anticipation of danger.

fear is the most general term and implies anxiety and usually loss of courage.

fear of the unknown

dread usually adds the idea of intense reluctance to face or meet a person or situation and suggests aversion as well as anxiety.

faced the meeting with dread

fright implies the shock of sudden, startling fear.

fright at being awakened suddenly

alarm suggests a sudden and intense awareness of immediate danger.

view the situation with alarm

panic implies unreasoning and overmastering fear causing hysterical activity.

the news caused widespread panic

terror implies the most extreme degree of fear.

immobilized with terror

trepidation adds to dread the implications of timidity, trembling, and hesitation.

raised the subject with trepidation

Examples of panic in a Sentence

Noun He was in a panic when he realized how late he was. There's no reason to get into a panic. The villagers fled in panic from the approaching army. The crowd was in a state of panic. She has panic attacks whenever she has to speak in public. Verb If something goes wrong, don't panic. The deer, panicked by the headlights, ran in front of the car.
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
Minutes later, the Dutch took the lead when an inviting cross from Denzel Dumfries caused panic Turkish box and a combination of Gakpo and Mert Müldür ended with the ball of the back of the net. Ben Morse, CNN, 6 July 2024 The ruling and its aftermath left thousands of people who are currently undergoing IVF treatment in a devastating limbo, adding even more stress, panic, and heartbreak to what is already a grueling endeavor. As Told To Stephanie McNeal, Glamour, 24 Feb. 2024
Noun
Here are the top storylines to watch: Biden's next big test After Biden's debate performance last month ignited panic among Democrats, his campaign has been urgently searching for opportunities to undo damage and prove the president can be an effective leader for the future. Shannon K. Crawford, ABC News, 9 July 2024 Biden’s halting debate performance in Atlanta last month prompted panic among Democrats over his ability to sustain a winning campaign against his Republican rival, former President Donald Trump, who has consistently led him in battleground state polls. Michael Wilner, Miami Herald, 9 July 2024
Verb
According to Miami police, the kids set off fireworks, which sounded like gunfire, and people panicked, with some jumping to conclusions after seeing large, mysterious figures in the dark. Madeleine Marr, Miami Herald, 8 July 2024 The crew’s mood shifted quickly from positive to panic before Park, in tears, called from a cellphone. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 7 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for panic 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'panic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective and Noun

French panique, from Greek panikos, literally, of Pan, from Pan

First Known Use

Adjective

circa 1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1612, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

Verb

1780, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of panic was circa 1586

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near panic

Cite this Entry

“Panic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/panic. Accessed 18 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

panic

1 of 2 noun
pan·​ic ˈpan-ik How to pronounce panic (audio)
1
: a sudden overpowering fright especially without reasonable cause
also : extreme anxiousness
2
: a sudden widespread fright concerning financial affairs causing hurried selling and a sharp fall in prices
panic adjective
panicky
ˈpan-i-kē
adjective

panic

2 of 2 verb
panicked
-ikt
; panicking
: to affect or be affected with panic
Etymology

Noun

Greek panikon "fear caused by Pan, panic," from panikos "relating to the fear caused by Pan," literally, "of Pan," from Pan, name of a god of woods and shepherds

Word Origin
The ancient Greeks worshipped a god of pastures, flocks, and shepherds whom they named Pan. Pan was believed to be able to cause great fear at times. The people of Athens believed that it was Pan who had caused the Persians to flee in terror from the battle of Marathon. The Greek adjective panikos, literally meaning "of Pan," was used to describe the kind of sudden fear that Pan was thought to cause. The English word panic comes from Greek panikos.

Medical Definition

panic

1 of 2 noun
pan·​ic ˈpan-ik How to pronounce panic (audio)
1
: a sudden overpowering fright
also : acute extreme anxiety
2
: a sudden unreasoning terror often accompanied by mass flight
widespread panic in the streets

panic

2 of 2 verb
panicked -ikt How to pronounce panic (audio) ; panicking

transitive verb

: to affect with panic

intransitive verb

: to be affected with panic

More from Merriam-Webster on panic

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!