ter·ror | \ ˈter-ər , ˈte-rər \

Definition of terror 

1 : a state of intense fear

2a : one that inspires fear : scourge

b : a frightening aspect

c : a cause of anxiety : worry

d : an appalling person or thing especially : brat

4 : violent or destructive acts (such as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands

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Other words from terror

terrorless \ˈter-ər-ləs, ˈte-rər- \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for terror

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 terror in a Sentence

The sound of guns being fired fills me with terror. Many civilians fled in terror. a terror that is still fresh in her memory the terrors of life in the jungle a regime that rules by terror bombings and other acts of terror These people have been living with terror and the threat of terror for many years. a campaign of terror against ethnic minority groups
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Recent Examples on the Web

The real reason Trump blames my friend @SadiqKhan for the terror attacks last year is simple. Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, "Admitting He Feels ‘Unwelcome,’ Trump Finds New Ways to Offend the British," 13 July 2018 Trump lashed out at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, accusing him of saying there was no reason to be alarmed about a terror attack. Jen Kirby, Vox, "A giant “Trump Baby” balloon will greet Trump in London next week," 6 July 2018 This though is the sad song with a sweet melody whose mournful tone feel likes a response to the terror attack that killed 22 at a Grande show in England last year. Dan Deluca, Philly.com, "Drake, Ariana Grande, Cardi B and the other songs to create the best Summer music playlist," 5 July 2018 The geographic, political, economic, and social consequences of decades of terror lynchings can still be seen in many communities today, and the damage created by lynching needs to be confronted and discussed. Mark Curnutte, Cincinnati.com, "Six blacks lynched near Cincinnati among 4,400 named at a new memorial that opens Thursday," 25 Apr. 2018 The idea for the museum took root in 2010, when EJI started investigating racial terror lynchings. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "New memorial for lynching victims reaches for truth and reconciliation," 24 Apr. 2018 But, the terrors of the past aren’t what brings Camille back to her sweaty, claustrophobic hometown of the fictional Wind Gap, Missouri. refinery29.com, "All The Clues To Figuring Out The Identity Of The Sharp Objects Killer," 9 July 2018 Bailey was an incredible man, with unmeasurable potential, whose life was sadly cut short by the terrors of drug abuse. courant.com, "Bailey Scott Stanhope," 8 July 2018 He was allegedly inspired by al Qaeda, but was not trained by the terror group. Jeff Pegues, CBS News, "Suspect in Cleveland July 4 terror plot allegedly scouted Rock & Roll Hall of Fame," 2 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'terror.' 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 terror

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for terror

Middle English, from Anglo-French terrour, from Latin terror, from terrēre to frighten; akin to Greek trein to be afraid, flee, tremein to tremble — more at tremble

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Phrases Related to terror

hold no terror(s)

holy terror

Statistics for terror

Last Updated

13 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for terror

The first known use of terror was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for terror



English Language Learners Definition of terror

: a very strong feeling of fear

: something that causes very strong feelings of fear : something that is terrifying

: violence that is committed by a person, group, or government in order to frighten people and achieve a political goal


ter·ror | \ ˈter-ər \

Kids Definition of terror

1 : a state of great fear They fled in terror.

2 : a cause of great fear All these, however, were mere terrors of the night … —Washington Irving, “Sleepy Hollow”



Legal Definition of terror 

: an intense fear of physical injury or death inflict terror by forced entry or unlawful assembly also : the infliction of such fear an act of terror

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Comments on terror

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the setting in which something occurs

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