fear

1 of 2

noun

1
a
: 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

fear

2 of 2

verb

feared; fearing; fears

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
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

Example Sentences

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
Although deals offered online and in-store have converged in recent years, the fear of missing out on Black Friday still drives sales and sometimes irrational behavior, said Mr. Cohen, who oversaw Sears’s Canadian division before joining Columbia. Imani Moise, WSJ, 24 Nov. 2022 As the Iranian revolution transformed the region, the shock of suddenly facing an implacable enemy instilled in the Saudis a visceral fear of popular uprisings—either within their own kingdom or in any neighboring country. Kim Ghattas, The Atlantic, 24 Nov. 2022 But concern, or fear, is not the point of this day. John Archibald | Jarchibald@al.com, al, 24 Nov. 2022 Many shoppers wait until Cyber Monday to get products in part because of fear of missing out on deals all together, Hatch said. Amanda Pérez Pintado, USA TODAY, 23 Nov. 2022 Elsewhere, and often in big cities, resistance and fear of the virus among teachers and parents kept schools virtual for a year or longer. Laura Meckler, Washington Post, 23 Nov. 2022 To be perfectly honest with you, if homemade food items are dropped off, they rarely get eaten for fear that something was put in the food to do us harm. Harry Bruinius, The Christian Science Monitor, 22 Nov. 2022 Many prior studies have been conducted on farms or in laboratories, settings in which stress or fear might affect animals’ behavior or even impair their cognitive performance, the researchers note. Emily Anthes Lauren Petracca, New York Times, 22 Nov. 2022 These feelings can manifest in many ways, but at its core, social anxiety stems from a dynamic fear or worry that you may be judged, watched, or embarrassed by others, per the National Institute of Mental Health. Julia Ries, SELF, 22 Nov. 2022
Verb
And for those old-school fans concerned that the brand has lost its sense of whimsy, fear not: Along with classic navy and gray, color options include bubblegum pink and highlighter yellow. Kareem Rashed, Robb Report, 19 Nov. 2022 But cable cord-cutters need not fear — there are plenty of places to find real-time coverage and stream full matches. Tatum Hunter, Washington Post, 16 Nov. 2022 If you’re ever lost while trying to find a dish that fits into a vegan or vegetarian diet, do not fear! Magdalena O'neal, Sunset Magazine, 14 Nov. 2022 If the cooking fiend in your life isn't looking for a new pan at the moment, fear not: Our Place's cookware sale also includes major discounts on knives, cutting boards, plates, and more foodie items from the aesthetically pleasing brand. Sara Coughlin, SELF, 10 Nov. 2022 But some Black leaders in Pennsylvania fear that Democrats are taking the community for granted, a concern expressed in past cycles across the country. Will Mcduffie, ABC News, 5 Nov. 2022 Penn State doesn’t fear the Buckeyes, which allows the Nittany Lions to get after it. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, 29 Oct. 2022 Today, reporters following those leads should not fear subpoenas. Gabe Rottman, CNN, 28 Oct. 2022 If the perfect Halloween costume idea is evading you, never fear: Chicago is here to inspire. Chicago Tribune, 27 Oct. 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.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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.

Verb

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

First Known Use

Noun

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

Verb

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near fear

Cite this Entry

“Fear.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fear. Accessed 30 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

fear 1 of 2

noun

1
a
: an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by expectation or awareness of danger
b
: an instance of fear or a state marked by fear
2
: concern about what may happen : worry
3

fear

2 of 2

verb

1
: to feel great awe of
fear God
2
: to be afraid of : have fear
3
: to be worried
feared they would miss the train
fearer noun

Medical Definition

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

More from Merriam-Webster on fear

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