scare quotes

plural noun

Definition of scare quotes

: quotation marks used to express especially skepticism or derision concerning the use of the enclosed word or phrase

Examples of scare quotes in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Beethoven, in and out of scare quotes, has become a godlike abstraction of himself, complete with one-word moniker — his music less a product of culture than a feature of nature. Washington Post, "The best way to honor Beethoven’s 250th? Listen to every note he ever wrote.," 24 Dec. 2020 At times, the authors seem to presume a like-minded readership, as terms like forever war and endless wars—both now in common usage—are derided with scare quotes. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, "The New Language of Forever War-Making," 17 Dec. 2020 Their skepticism often manifests in a fondness for scare quotes. Ruth Margalit, The New Yorker, "In Search of King David’s Lost Empire," 22 June 2020 The letter is full of scare quotes, long sentences, parentheticals, personal call-outs, and all caps for emphasis. Kathleen Hou, The Cut, "The 12 Biggest Revelations From Deciem CEO Brandon Truaxe’s Open Letter," 23 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'scare quotes.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of scare quotes

1956, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about scare quotes

Time Traveler for scare quotes Time Traveler

The first known use of scare quotes was in 1956

See more words from the same year

Statistics for scare quotes

Cite this Entry

“Scare quotes.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster
Comments on scare quotes

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Who Knew?

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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