Definition of fear in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈfir/


1An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat: drivers are threatening to quit their jobs in fear after a cabby’s murder fear of increasing unemployment he is prey to irrational fears
More example sentences
  • It is important to make oneself accustomed to pain and danger without fear.
  • Accordingly, there was no arguable case that he had a well-founded fear of persecution.
  • Accordingly, I find that the applicants do not have a well-founded fear of persecution.
informal the creeps, the shivers, the willies, the heebie-jeebies, jitteriness, twitchiness, butterflies (in the stomach)
phobia, aversion, antipathy, dread, bugbear, nightmare, horror, terror;
anxiety, neurosis
informal hang-up
1.1 archaic A mixed feeling of dread and reverence: the love and fear of God
More example sentences
  • The Table is a place of feasting and refreshment, but also a place of mystery tinged with reverent fear.
  • At the centre of it all is a shallow self-centred consumerism, coupled with a debilitating absence of fear and reverence for God.
1.2 (fear for) A feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety and well-being of someone: police launched a search for the family amid fears for their safety
More example sentences
  • The newspapers have been responsibly restrained in their editorials which reflect the growing fears and safety concerns of the citizenry.
  • The union insists the dispute concerns health and safety fears.
  • He does, however, see an opportunity for brands to provide consumers with comfort and relief from the anxieties caused by safety fears.
1.3The likelihood of something unwelcome happening: she could observe the other guests without too much fear of attracting attention
More example sentences
  • Is it right for society to live in fear and risk the chance of another murder?
  • I have a terrible fear of loss, I have a terrible fear of the unexpected happening.
  • All the time I'm either in fear of what will happen, or I think I ought to be afraid, but this morning I felt strong and resolute.


[with object]
1Be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening: he said he didn’t care about life so why should he fear death? [with clause]: farmers fear that they will lose business
More example sentences
  • Economists fear unemployment is likely to persist for longer than in previous recessions.
  • Far more people fear snakes than are likely to find themselves in the presence of their slippery scales.
  • When the person it was addressed to opened it, he feared it was dangerous and police were called in.
be afraid of, be fearful of, be scared of, be apprehensive of, dread, live in fear of, be terrified of;
be anxious about, worry about, feel apprehensive about
have a phobia about, have a horror of, take fright at
1.1 [no object] (fear for) Feel anxiety or apprehension on behalf of: I fear for the city with this madman let loose in it
More example sentences
  • Before dawn breaks, Lot's family and the travellers flee the city, fearing for their lives.
  • Republicans across the city had feared for the future of the administration.
  • His resignation will be a tragedy for the city and I fear for some of his patients.
worry about, feel anxious about, feel concerned about, have anxieties about
1.2 [with infinitive] Avoid or put off doing something because one is afraid: they aim to make war so horrific that potential aggressors will fear to resort to it
More example sentences
  • Only a superficial soul fears to fraternize with itself.
  • Not fearing to reunite old enemies alongside old friends, they are organising a school reunion for the class of 1978.
  • Yet as long as they were killing us in small batches, we responded with passivity, fearing to stir up more trouble.
be too afraid, be too scared, hesitate, dare not
1.3Used to express regret or apology: I’ll buy her book, though not, I fear, the hardback version
1.4 archaic Regard (God) with reverence and awe.
Example sentences
  • As a result of this decision, he was to be lastingly estranged from his God-fearing mother, who regarded everything to do with the stage as sinful.
stand in awe of, revere, reverence, venerate, respect



for fear of (or that)

To avoid the risk of (or that): no one dared refuse the order for fear of losing their job
More example sentences
  • This is exactly the sort of compulsive behaviour I have to avoid for fear of going mad.
  • He speculated that the tree was ill and the koalas knew of it, avoiding the leaves for fear of food poisoning.
  • Players were afraid to take defensive risks for fear that no one would help out, and often no one would.

never fear

Used to reassure someone: we shall meet again, never fear
More example sentences
  • Well, never fear, you shall meet all of those new things one at a time, and in no time at all they won't be new any more, they shall seem like old friends.
  • But never fear, I am required as Admissions Officer to check in regularly while on holiday, to sort out new students applying and those that panic when the Embassy won't give them a study visa.
  • If you missed it - as you probably did - never fear.

put the fear of God in (or into) someone

Cause someone to be very frightened.
Example sentences
  • They must observe human rights at all times as well as protect people rather than putting the fear of God into them.
  • Apart from a few acrobatic monkeys putting the fear of God into me, and sweltering soaking heat, it was a pleasant trek.
  • We want people to take sensitive precautions - we don't want to put the fear of God into them.

without fear or favor

Impartially: make all your decisions without fear or favor
More example sentences
  • Judges are supposed to impartially interpret the law without fear or favour.
  • What hidden motivations are there in an oath that states that our judges will pledge themselves to act fairly and impartially, without fear or favour, affection, or ill will?
  • Anyone suspected of criminal behaviour, regardless of who they are, should be subject to investigation, and, if the competent authority deems necessary, should be tried without fear or favour.


Old English fǣr 'calamity, danger', fǣran 'frighten', also 'revere'.

Words that rhyme with fear

adhere, Agadir, Anglosphere, appear, arrear, auctioneer, austere, balladeer, bandolier, Bashkir, beer, besmear, bier, blear, bombardier, brigadier, buccaneer, cameleer, career, cashier, cavalier, chandelier, charioteer, cheer, chevalier, chiffonier, clavier, clear, Coetzee, cohere, commandeer, conventioneer, Cordelier, corsetière, Crimea, dear, deer, diarrhoea (US diarrhea), domineer, Dorothea, drear, ear, electioneer, emir, endear, engineer, fleer, Freer, fusilier, gadgeteer, Galatea, gazetteer, gear, gondolier, gonorrhoea (US gonorrhea), Greer, grenadier, hand-rear, hear, here, Hosea, idea, interfere, Izmir, jeer, Judaea, Kashmir, Keir, kir, Korea, Lear, leer, Maria, marketeer, Medea, Meir, Melilla, mere, Mia, Mir, mishear, mountaineer, muleteer, musketeer, mutineer, near, orienteer, pamphleteer, panacea, paneer, peer, persevere, pier, Pierre, pioneer, pistoleer, privateer, profiteer, puppeteer, racketeer, ratafia, rear, revere, rhea, rocketeer, Sapir, scrutineer, sear, seer, sere, severe, Shamir, shear, sheer, sincere, smear, sneer, sonneteer, souvenir, spear, sphere, steer, stere, summiteer, Tangier, tear, tier, Trier, Tyr, veer, veneer, Vere, Vermeer, vizier, volunteer, Wear, weir, we're, year, Zaïre

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: fear

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.