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

Example Sentences

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 As 85 people were taken to hospitals with injuries, Mitsotakis hurried to visit the site, and trepidation grew about a rising death toll. Jason Horowitz,, 1 Mar. 2023 As 85 people were taken to hospitals with injuries, Mr. Mitsotakis hurried to visit the site and trepidation grew about a rising death toll. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, 1 Mar. 2023 Ultimately, though, that trepidation fades as the freedom given to the creatives translates into games that go on to sell millions of copies. Chris Morris, Fortune, 27 Feb. 2023 This developing trend has been met with both trepidation and jubilance, depending on the observer’s political affinities. Noah Rothman, National Review, 24 Feb. 2023 And there’s no trepidation now, especially because of who Kang is. Zack Sharf, Variety, 15 Feb. 2023 And there’s no trepidation now, especially because of who Kang is. Jason P. Frank, Vulture, 15 Feb. 2023 Part of the trepidation is the lackluster box office performance of original comedies, which has caused the industry to cool around the genre. Dan Heching, CNN, 8 Feb. 2023 The biggest financial event of the year so far had inspired more optimism than trepidation. Heard Editors, WSJ, 1 Feb. 2023 See More

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

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 26 Mar. 2023.

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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