Definition of terror in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈtɛrə/


1 [mass noun] Extreme fear: people fled in terror [in singular]: she had a terror of darkness
More example sentences
  • Fearing a curse, the townspeople fled in terror as soon as the weather broke.
  • I have lived those years both in dread of attending the party and in terror of missing it.
  • In fact, it's surprising how little you notice when you've got your eyes firmly shut and you're screaming in terror.
extreme fear, dread, horror, fear and trembling, fright, trepidation, alarm, panic, shock
informal funk
1.1The use of extreme fear to intimidate people: weapons of terror
More example sentences
  • Swindon magistrates heard they had waged a campaign of terror in the past six months, causing mayhem for shoppers and staff.
  • Several documents reflected the terror of the late 1930s and are in the form of denunciations.
  • You don't use weapons of terror on people you are intending to liberate.
1.2 [often as modifier] Terrorism: a terror suspect a terror attack
More example sentences
  • They were being manufactured for unlawful ends to wreak violence through terror.
  • They are rejected by relatives who are reminded of the terrors committed by the Janjaweed every time they look at their small faces.
  • The latest news from the terror front is hardly all grim.
1.3 [in singular] A person or thing that causes extreme fear: his delivery is the terror of even world-class batsmen
More example sentences
  • At nineteen, Jeremiah McAuley was a thief and the terror of the New York waterfront.
  • Bumped into old East Londoner Peter Dyter - a second year who was the terror of Merriman new boys.
  • They were the terrors of every 7 - Eleven parking lot, the most feared guests at every house party.
demon, fiend, devil, monster;
horror, nightmare
1.4 (the Terror) The period of the French Revolution between mid 1793 and July 1794 when the ruling Jacobin faction, dominated by Robespierre, ruthlessly executed anyone considered a threat to their regime. Also called Reign of Terror.
2 (also holy terror) informal A person, especially a child, that causes trouble or annoyance.
Example sentences
  • If you believe children should be seen and not heard, it may be best to avoid visiting during the school holidays - when tiny terrors abound.
  • Thankfully, my own little terrors decided to play fair on New Year's Day and let me have a bit of a lie-in until 8.45 am.
  • The three Mexican terrors know and respect the Belfast man, who lives and trains in the boxing crossroads of Las Vegas.
rascal, devil, imp, monkey, wretch, scamp, mischief-maker, troublemaker
informal horror, holy terror
British informal perisher
Irish informal spalpeen
Northern English informal tyke, scally
North American informal varmint, hellion
archaic scapegrace, rapscallion


have (or hold) no terrors for someone

Not frighten or worry someone: death held no terrors for him
More example sentences
  • Of course I'm concerned about getting it right, but it holds no terrors for me because I have played Lear, and Lear is the most difficult of all.
  • A former high-class hurdler, Deep Water has always looked as though fences would hold no terrors for him.
  • The open pan of the valley had no terrors for us in daylight.


Late Middle English: from Old French terrour, from Latin terror, from terrere 'frighten'.

  • Like terrible (Late Middle English), terror comes from Latin terrere ‘to frighten’ and goes back to medieval times. The Terror was the period of the French Revolution, from about March 1793 to July 1794, marked by extreme repression and bloodshed. The expression reign of terror, which may now be applied to any brutal exercise of power, was originally coined to describe this time. Terrorist also has links with this period, as the word was originally used to describe the Jacobins, the revolutionary group who were responsible for the repression and executions of the Terror. Terrible once meant ‘causing terror or awe’, a meaning reflected in the name of the feared 16th-century tsar of Russia Ivan the Terrible. The weakened sense ‘very bad, appalling’ gradually evolved from the start of the 17th century. Today parents talk of the terrible twos, a period in a child's development around the age of two that often involves defiant or challenging behaviour. The term is first found in the title of a film produced in 1950 for the Department of National Health and Welfare in Canada, called The Terrible Twos and the Trusting Threes.

Words that rhyme with terror

Berra, error, Ferrer, sierra

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ter¦ror

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