Definition of fear in English:


Line breaks: fear
Pronunciation: /fɪə


[mass noun]


[with object] Back to top  
  • 1Be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or harmful: I hated him but didn’t fear him any more [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, go in terror of, be terrified of, be terrified by, cower before, tremble before, cringe from, shrink from, flinch from; be anxious about, worry about, panic about, feel consternation about, have forebodings about, feel apprehensive about
    British informal be in a blue funk about
    have a phobia about, have a horror of, have a dread of, shudder at, take fright at
  • 1.1 [no object] (fear for) Feel anxiety 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/concerned about, have anxieties about, have qualms about, feel disquiet for, be solicitous for
  • 1.2 [with infinitive] Avoid doing something because one is afraid: she eventually feared to go out at all
    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, be too apprehensive, hesitate; dare not
    informal have cold feet about
  • 1.3Used to express regret or apology: I shall buy her book, though not, I fear, the hardback version
  • 1.4 archaic Regard (God) with reverence and awe: he urged his listeners to fear God
    More 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, regard with awe, revere, reverence, venerate, respect; dread, be intimidated by


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.

no fear

British informal Used as an emphatic expression of denial or refusal: ‘Are you coming with me?’ ‘No fear—it’s too exciting here.’

put the fear of God in (or into) someone

Make someone very frightened: she hoped the threat would put the fear of God in him
More 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 favour

Impartially: take all your decisions without fear or favour
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', of Germanic origin; related to Dutch gevaar and German Gefahr 'danger'.

More definitions of fear

Definition of fear in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day coloratura
Pronunciation: ˌkələrəˈto͝orə
elaborate ornamentation of a vocal melody