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
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 But while Netflix course-corrected that winter — and again following an even worse earnings report that spring — what execs at the company did not do was panic. Vulture, 26 Jan. 2024 Comer is especially good at conveying a sense of genuine, if weirdly relaxed, panic. Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post, 17 Jan. 2024 The prevailing mood of the Kings fans inside the arena was not necessarily panic, but there was certainly angst. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, 30 Apr. 2023 When ChatGPT launched for free five months ago, the primary response among educators — including in the Bay Area — was panic. Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 Apr. 2023 Some people think the real poison is panic. Dan Zak, Washington Post, 9 Mar. 2023 Still, the first length was panic. BostonGlobe.com, 27 Feb. 2023 These are hardly panic-worthy numbers. Neil Irwin, New York Times, 8 July 2021
Noun
Missiles can be seen in the distance while people run in panic. Mohammad Al-Sawalhi, CNN, 14 Apr. 2024 Rebecca Ferguson says her recent revelation that a former co-star treated her abusively on a film set caused some panic among her former castmates. James Hibberd, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Apr. 2024 In another example of creatives trying to play nice with generative AI, filmmaker Paul Trillo spoke on the Hard Fork podcast about his experience previewing Sora, OpenAI’s new text-to-video model that recently sent both Hollywood executives and much of the general public into a panic. Sage Lazzaro, Fortune, 11 Apr. 2024 Emergency management officials passed out a list of evacuation procedures to worried residents at a Wednesday evening town meeting meant to mitigate panic. CBS News, 11 Apr. 2024 Participants in the survey described a variety of experiences while using drugs on Oct. 7, ranging from hallucinations to extreme clarity, from panic to resolve and from paralysis to action. Gal Koplewitz Natan Odenheimer, New York Times, 11 Apr. 2024 Then, after World War I, much of Europe went into a racial panic that colonial populations would rise up and overwhelm civilization. Stefanos Geroulanos, Twin Cities, 10 Apr. 2024 Hours after the explosion in Damascus last week, many of Israel’s almost 10 million people went into a panic: hearing pundits in the media predict a massive retaliation by Iran, Israelis stocked up on food and rushed to ATM’s to draw cash from their accounts in case of all-out war. Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman, TIME, 9 Apr. 2024 Breyer loved the job and was reluctant to announce his retirement, throwing liberals who feared another R.B.G. fiasco into a panic. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, 8 Apr. 2024
Verb
So having that awareness and education meant that there was nothing to be panicked about in terms of the [fictional] character. Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Apr. 2024 When doctors found an early, but dangerous, tumor, Lee cried and panicked. Yuki Noguchi, NPR, 12 Apr. 2024 Ellie shares the bombshell with Gwen and Nick (Andrés F. Roa), the office’s other millennial, both of whom panic over how Joyce, their superior and the subject of that careless remark, will respond. Chris Klimek, Washington Post, 10 Apr. 2024 No need to panic, Bachelor Nation — Charity Lawson and Dotun Olubeko are still going strong. Shania Russell, EW.com, 2 Apr. 2024 But the experts say that despite new cases being recorded each year, there is no need to panic. Michelle Marchante, Miami Herald, 28 Mar. 2024 From the postponement of the Olympic games to the shutdown of the NBA and Disneyland to international travel bans, lockdowns, and global stock market crashes, there were plenty of reasons to panic. Wes Moss, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2024 There's no reason to panic: Federal and state health authorities are investigating the outbreaks, and the USDA said the risk to the general public is low as the viruses have only rarely been transmitted from person to person. USA TODAY, 4 Apr. 2024 Too much public reporting of vulnerabilities is spent panicking about theoretical risks, distracting us from the often more boring but important work of fixing real problems. Justin Warren, Forbes, 28 Mar. 2024

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

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Dictionary Entries Near panic

Cite this Entry

“Panic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/panic. Accessed 22 Apr. 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
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