\ ˈfir How to pronounce fear (audio) \

Definition of fear

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger
b(1) : an instance of this emotion
(2) : a state marked by this emotion
2 : anxious concern : solicitude
3 : profound reverence and awe especially toward God
4 : reason for alarm : danger


feared; fearing; fears

Definition of fear (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to be afraid of : expect with alarm fear the worst
2 : to have a reverential awe of fear God
3 archaic : frighten
4 archaic : to feel fear in (oneself)

intransitive verb

: to be afraid or apprehensive feared for their lives feared to go out at night

Other Words from fear


fearer noun

Choose the Right Synonym for fear


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 fear in a Sentence

Noun He was trembling with fear. unable to walk the streets without fear of being mugged They regarded their enemies with fear and hatred. I've been trying to overcome my fear of flying. The doctor's diagnosis confirmed our worst fears. The government is trying to allay fears of a recession. Employees expressed fears that the company would go out of business. He told us about all his hopes and fears. She has a morbid fear of cats. Verb He was a cruel king who was feared and hated by his subjects. There's no need to fear. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun State oil firms have shunned purchases since late 2019 for fear of falling foul of secondary US sanctions. Reuters, CNN, 20 June 2022 The residents, who are farmers, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. Samy Magdy, BostonGlobe.com, 16 June 2022 Anyone who wanted to review the document had to seek the permission of high-ranking district attorney’s office staff, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times, 16 June 2022 Within a few months, Jeff and his team found homes for most of the dogs, asking the new owners not to publicize the adoptions for fear the Taliban will show up at their door wanting the dogs back. Liza Lentini, SPIN, 16 June 2022 Democrats won’t even acknowledge violence on the left for fear of upending a political narrative. Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, 16 June 2022 When the result involves allegations of domestic violence, more women are discouraged from coming forward and telling their stories for fear of not being believed. Patricia Fersch, Forbes, 15 June 2022 The family accused the doctors of waiting for fear of harming the other fetus and being subject to possible prosecution. New York Times, 12 June 2022 There was no treatment, I was told, and left to soldier on as if nothing was happening, for fear I’d be accused of being slovenly yet again. Erin Prater, Fortune, 11 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Investors — who have veered from relief that policymakers are taking aggressive actions to rein in inflation to fear about the effect those actions may have on economic growth — are betting the swings are here to stay. Jason Karaian, New York Times, 17 June 2022 There are still other reasons to fear that the Fed's newfound monetary policy hawkishness might be putting us on the path to a hard economic landing. Desmond Lachman For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, 16 June 2022 In fact, Mickelson may have nothing to fear this week other than the punishing Country Club layout. Jimmy Golen, Hartford Courant, 15 June 2022 The key to harnessing your feelings for success is to learn not to fear failure, try, make mistakes, learn from them, and be in a constant state of growth. Alaina Percival, Forbes, 15 June 2022 Dulce, the drag performer who was allegedly harassed by Proud Boys at the San Lorenzo Library, told KGO there’s no reason to fear or hate them. Kim Bellware, Washington Post, 13 June 2022 At the very least, the industry seems to fear losing market share to an entity whose raison d’etre is generating massive amounts of electricity without needing to make a profit. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 8 June 2022 However, Affirm and Block sellers have good reason to fear Monday’s news. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 7 June 2022 For weeks, Russian forces occupied the plant, prompting many observers to fear that fighting could lead to yet another disaster in this small town some 20 miles from Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus. Vivian Salama, WSJ, 6 June 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of fear


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 3

History and Etymology for fear


Middle English fer, going back to Old English fǣr, fēr "unexpected danger, peril," going back to Germanic *fēra- or *fēran- (whence also Old Saxon fār "lurking danger," Old High German fāra "ambush, danger," Old Norse fár "evil, mischief, plague"), perhaps going back to a lengthened-grade nominal derivative of a proposed Indo-European verbal base *per- "test, risk" — more at peril entry 1

Note: Attested in Gothic only in the presumed derivative ferja, translating Greek enkáthetos "one put in secretly, spy." Though the etymology proposed above is conventional in dictionaries, the original meaning of the Germanic etymon and its relation to a putative Indo-European *per- are uncertain. See note at peril entry 1. The meaning of the Middle and Modern English noun appears to be derivative of the verb (see fear entry 2) rather than a development of the Old English meaning.


Middle English feren "to frighten, be afraid of," going back to Old English fǣran, fēran "to take by surprise, frighten," weak verb derivative (as also Old Saxon fāron "to lurk in wait for, frighten," Old High German fārēn "to lurk in wait for, strive, devise ill against," Old Norse færa "to slight, taunt") of Germanic *fēra- or *fēran- — more at fear entry 1

Learn More About fear

Time Traveler for fear

Time Traveler

The first known use of fear was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near fear



Fear, Cape

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for fear

Last Updated

23 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Fear.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fear. Accessed 26 Jun. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for fear


\ ˈfir How to pronounce fear (audio) \
feared; fearing

Kids Definition of fear

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to be afraid of : feel fear



Kids Definition of fear (Entry 2 of 2)

: a strong unpleasant feeling caused by being aware of danger or expecting something bad to happen


\ ˈfi(ə)r How to pronounce fear (audio) \

Medical Definition of fear

1 : an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger and accompanied by increased autonomic activity
2 : an instance of fear

Other Words from fear

fear verb

More from Merriam-Webster on fear

Nglish: Translation of fear for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fear for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fear


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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