trep·​i·​da·​tion ˌtre-pə-ˈdā-shən How to pronounce trepidation (audio)
: a nervous or fearful feeling of uncertain agitation : apprehension
trepidation about starting a new job
archaic : a tremulous motion : tremor

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Trepidation Has Latin Roots

If you've ever trembled with fright, you know something of both the sensation and etymology of trepidation. The word comes from the Latin verb trepidare, which means "to tremble." Early meanings of trepidation, such as "tremulous motion" or "tremor," reflect that origin; those are followed by the word's sense of "apprehension."

Choose the Right Synonym for trepidation

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 trepidation in a Sentence

In the first minutes, hours, or even days of fieldwork most researchers feel trepidation about being an outsider, a stranger on the scene … Marie D. Price, Geographical Review, January-April 2001
This was an ambitious project, and a number of us felt some trepidation about the possible results. Brian Phillips, New Republic, 13 Dec. 1999
I came aboard the 319 with trepidation, to join the lives of utter strangers, a man untried by the circumstances they had known. Henry G. Bugbee, Jr., "Naval History," in Authors at Sea, Robert Shenk, ed.1997
He had some trepidation about agreeing to their proposal. shaking with trepidation, I stepped into the old abandoned house
Recent Examples on the Web Well, phew, because this mom over here is done feeling trepidation around planning summer birthdays, and not wanting to let anyone down. Melissa Willets, Parents, 3 July 2024 Introduction But even amid their trepidation around this shiny new tool, many scientists were ecstatic. Quanta Magazine, 26 June 2024 Business leaders are likely to feel trepidation, to put it mildly, over the consequences that may come from saying or doing the wrong thing. Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Fortune, 24 June 2024 The trepidation of what success could mean for an entire culture is in the air, and it’s emphasized by scenes of Biggie being chased out of hotels by security despite having a major hit, and members of Cypress Hill glancing sideways at a profile of Vanilla Ice in The Source. Alphonse Pierre, Pitchfork, 14 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for trepidation 

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

Word History


Latin trepidation-, trepidatio, from trepidare to tremble, from trepidus agitated; probably akin to Old English thrafian to urge, push, Greek trapein to press grapes

First Known Use

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of trepidation was in 1605


Dictionary Entries Near trepidation

Cite this Entry

“Trepidation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


trep·​i·​da·​tion ˌtrep-ə-ˈdā-shən How to pronounce trepidation (audio)
: a state of alarm or nervousness
approached the abandoned house with trepidation

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