ter·​ror | \ ˈter-ər How to pronounce terror (audio) , 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 How to pronounce terrorless (audio) , ˈte-​rər-​ \ adjective

Synonyms for terror


affliction, demon (or daemon), hang-up, torment

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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

Women have been in combat since the start of the global war on terror and continually have proven themselves as combat necessary and effective. WSJ, "A Fierce Battle Over Women in Combat Units," 22 Jan. 2019 Outside Pakistan, however, the war on terror continued, driven especially by the rise of the Islamic State. Mattathias Schwartz, New York Times, "A Spymaster Steps Out of the Shadows," 27 June 2018 While Kate Middleton remains at home in London, William has been in New Zealand to pay respect to the victims of the Christchurch terror attacks. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Prince William Gave the Funniest Response When Asked if Baby Sussex Had Arrived Yet," 29 Apr. 2019 Prince William is currently visiting New Zealand to pay tribute to all those affected by the Christchurch terror attack. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Prince William Was Reportedly Asked When the Royal Baby Is Due and His Response Was Hilarious," 27 Apr. 2019 Political tensions since the poisoning of former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury, England in early March were highlighted alongside the threat of terror in the Foreign Affairs Committee's report. Hilary Mcgann, CNN, "Russia 2018: LGBT members face 'significant risk' at World Cup, UK Foreign Office warns," 8 June 2018 In Chicago, African-Americans formed self-defense units after days of white terror in their neighborhoods. Ursula Wolfe-rocca, Teen Vogue, "The Red Summer of 1919, Explained," 8 Apr. 2019 For her, returning to the beach means returning to the scene of life-altering terror. Candice Frederick, Harper's BAZAAR, "Us Offers a Terrifying Vision of Judgement Day," 26 Mar. 2019 The terror attack in Christchurch on Friday was the worst act of terrorism on our shores. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "New Zealand Lawmakers Are Changing Gun Laws in Response to the Christchurch Mosque Attacks," 18 Mar. 2019

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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Statistics for terror

Last Updated

7 Jun 2019

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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 How to pronounce terror (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on terror

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with terror

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for terror

Spanish Central: Translation of terror

Nglish: Translation of terror for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of terror for Arabic Speakers

Comments on terror

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


behavior toward others

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