1 of 2


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


2 of 2


feared; fearing; fears

transitive verb

: to be afraid of : expect with alarm
fear the worst
: to have a reverential awe of
fear God
archaic : frighten
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
Humanity’s longtime fear of being replaced by tech reached a fever pitch recently as AI such as ChatGPT and Lensa went viral for generating surprisingly competent essays, stories, artwork, coding and even medical diagnoses through machine learning. Jess Joho, Los Angeles Times, 28 Jan. 2023 The fear of chemistry problems mongered by college coaches and pundits, however, should be checked by the fact that professional teams are able to maintain chemistry despite pay disparities amongst players. Thomas Baker, Forbes, 27 Jan. 2023 Research also links black-and-white thinking to perfectionism, which is driven by a fear of failure and often causes emotional distress. Erica Sweeney, Men's Health, 26 Jan. 2023 There’s also the fear of what unleashing A.I. would mean for society. Alyson Shontell, Fortune, 25 Jan. 2023 But the Power Ranger mask helped calm Caidence's fear of visiting the hospital. Devi Shastri, Journal Sentinel, 24 Jan. 2023 Making lifelong decisions based on the fear of missing out is never a good idea. Elaine Welteroth, Anchorage Daily News, 23 Jan. 2023 There was nothing more juvenile than the fear of death. Clare Sestanovich, The New Yorker, 23 Jan. 2023 Caesars takes the fear of losing out of the equation with its $1,250 first-bet insurance welcome bonus. Catena Media, al, 21 Jan. 2023
The violence compounds fear and anxiety many in the community are experiencing as crimes targeting Asians grow in California. Ryan Fonsecastaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 23 Jan. 2023 And while some have safeguards in place to block offensive or harmful content, experts fear it’s only a matter of time until people utilize these tools to spread disinformation and further erode public trust. Matt O'brien And Arijeta Lajka, The Christian Science Monitor, 20 Jan. 2023 The deeply moving epic synthesizes the composer’s operatic fury with the solemnity of the Catholic Mass for the Dead, depicting the fate of the living who fear death and beg for deliverance. Greg Carannante, Sun Sentinel, 19 Jan. 2023 And fear not: he's been getting paid in actual cash lately. Emlyn Travis, EW.com, 13 Jan. 2023 Our parents, our grandparents and even our great-grandparents were taught to fear fatness and glorify thinness. Alex Light, Glamour, 5 Jan. 2023 The January 6th Report offers no shuddering sense, not even a little shiver, of the national mood of vulnerability, fear, and sorrow. Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, 9 Jan. 2023 And many also fear that traveling out of town without the proper paperwork could lead to apprehension by US immigration authorities. Karol Suarez, CNN, 31 Dec. 2022 And some fear that TikTok, which is designed to create viral videos—and which is a growing source of news for American teenagers and adults—is especially susceptible to manipulated videos. Matteo Wong, The Atlantic, 20 Dec. 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



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

First Known Use


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


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 2 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


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


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

Medical Definition


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

More from Merriam-Webster on fear

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