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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
But the bill has long fueled fears that the government, under the guiding hand of the Moscow-friendly oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, a former prime minister and de facto leader of Georgian Dream, is sliding back into Russia’s orbit and could scuttle the country’s plans to join the European Union. Francesca Ebel, Washington Post, 17 Apr. 2024 Western leaders have announced plans to impose new sanctions against Iran following the country's first direct attack on Israel in decades with hopes to both penalize Iran and limit the force and scope of Israel's retaliation as fears grow over a wider regional conflict. Christopher Cann, USA TODAY, 17 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for fear 

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

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 20 Apr. 2024.

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

fear

noun
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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