ter·​ror ˈter-ər How to pronounce terror (audio)
plural terrors
: a state of intense or overwhelming fear
overcome by terror
people fleeing the scene in terror
He lived in terror of being caught.
: violence or the threat of violence used as a weapon of intimidation or coercion
a regime that rules by terror
especially : violent or destructive acts (such as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands
an act of terror
the war on terror
sometimes used before another noun
a terror attack
: a very frightening or terrifying aspect
the terrors of war
: someone or something that inspires fear : scourge
I stood before fierce Mrs. Mabel Johnston, his secretary and the terror of the office.Russell Baker
Before rifles were available to Eskimo hunters, bears were truly the terror of their existence.Charles T. Feazel
informal : an extremely disruptive or annoying person or thing
especially : a misbehaving child : brat
Their son is a little terror.
ˈter-ər-ləs How to pronounce terror (audio)
Choose the Right Synonym for terror

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 terror in a Sentence

The sound of guns being fired fills me with terror. Many civilians fled in terror. a terror that is still fresh in her memory the terrors of life in the jungle a regime that rules by terror bombings and other acts of terror These people have been living with terror and the threat of terror for many years. a campaign of terror against ethnic minority groups
Recent Examples on the Web Here are some tips from dieticians Neo-Nazi podcasters sent to prison on terror charges for targeting Prince Harry and his young son The best way to enjoy sweet potatoes? Hartford Courant, 13 June 2024 All four had been abducted from the Nova music festival during the surprise Hamas terror attack in Israel on Oct. 7. Tom Soufi Burridge, ABC News, 13 June 2024 The arrests occurred within months after FBI Director Christopher Wray warned in April that human smuggling operations at the southern border were bringing in people with possible connections to terror groups. Andres Triay, CBS News, 11 June 2024 Since 2017, a group of extremist militants pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) has waged a fierce terror campaign in Mozambique’s northernmost province, Cabo Delgado. Sophie Neiman, The Christian Science Monitor, 6 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for terror 

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

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French terrour, from Latin terror, from terrēre to frighten; akin to Greek trein to be afraid, flee, tremein to tremble — more at tremble

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of terror was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near terror

Cite this Entry

“Terror.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terror. Accessed 22 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


ter·​ror ˈter-ər How to pronounce terror (audio)
: a state of great fear
: a cause of great fear
: a dreadful person or thing
informal : an unruly child
: violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by a group as a way of achieving its goals

Legal Definition


: an intense fear of physical injury or death
inflict terror by forced entry or unlawful assembly
also : the infliction of such fear
an act of terror

More from Merriam-Webster on terror

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