a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. Synonyms: foreboding, apprehension, consternation, dismay, dread, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation, qualm. Antonyms: courage, security, calm, intrepidity.
a specific instance of or propensity for such a feeling: an abnormal fear of heights. Synonyms: phobia, aversion; bête noire, bogy, bogey, bugbear. Antonyms: liking, fondness, penchant, predilection.
concern or anxiety; solicitude: a fear for someone's safety.
reverential awe, especially toward God: the fear of God. Synonyms: awe, respect, reverence, veneration.
something that causes feelings of dread or apprehension; something a person is afraid of: Cancer is a common fear.
anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will
occur: Having grown up during the Great Depression, he had a constant fear of running out of money.
verb (used with object)
to regard with fear; be afraid of. Synonyms: apprehend, dread.
to have reverential awe of. Synonyms: revere, venerate, honor.
to consider or anticipate (something unpleasant) with a feeling of dread or alarm: It's about to snow again, I fear.
Archaic. to experience fear in (oneself): I fear me he will ne'er forgive us.
verb (used without object)
to have fear; be afraid: I'll go with you, so do not fear!
to feel apprehensive or uneasy (usually followed by for ): In this time of economic instability, I fear for my children's future.
for fear of/that, in order to prevent or avoid the risk of: She is afraid to say anything for fear of the consequences.
put the fear of God in/into, to cause to be greatly afraid.
Origin: Related forms
before 900; Middle English fere, Old English fær sudden attack or danger; cognate with Old Saxon fār ambush, Dutch gevaar, German Gefahr danger, Old Norse fār disaster
Fear, alarm, dread all imply a painful emotion experienced when one is confronted by threatening danger or evil. Alarm implies an agitation of the feelings caused by awakening to imminent danger; it names a feeling of fright or panic: He started up in alarm. Fear and dread usually refer more to a condition or state than to an event. Fear is often applied to an attitude toward something, which, when experienced, will cause the sensation of fright: fear of falling. Dread suggests anticipation of something, usually a particular event, which, when experienced, will be disagreeable rather than frightening: She lives in dread of losing her money. The same is often true of fear, when used in a negative statement: She has no fear of losing her money.
—Fear and Trembling:
A philosophical exploration of faith and ethics by Sören Kierkegaard. Published in 1843 under the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio.
—Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream:
A roman à clef
by gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. First printed in 1971 as a two-part series in Rolling Stone
magazine, and as a novel in 1972.
—Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:
A film adaptation of the Hunter S. Thompson book, directed by Terry Gilliam. Released in 1998.
—The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things:
1999 book by sociologist Barry Glassner, examining why Americans' fears are misplaced and exaggerated. Revised and updated in 2010.
An American reality game show (2001–2006) in which contestants had to complete a series of dangerous, disgusting, or otherwise fear-inducing stunts.
—No FEAR Act: The Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (Public Law 107–174). The act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002, increases Federal agency accountability for acts of discrimination or reprisal against employees.
“Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue.“
—Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Terrorized by ‘War on Terror’: How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America“ The Washington Post (March 25, 2007)
“What we, following the Scriptures, call the fear of God, is not terror or dread, but an awe that holds God in reverence.“
—Martin Luther, The communion of the Christian with God: Described on the basis of Luther's statements (1906)
“I have a huge need for financial security; the immigrant in me has a fear of ending up homeless and in the gutter.“
—Ruth Behar, Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza's Story (2003)
“To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.“
—Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals (1929)
“I fear we are all in your black books.“
—Anthony Trollope, The Three Clerks (1858)
“[T]here may be dark abysses before which intelligence must be silent, for fear of going mad.“
—George Santayana, The Essential Santayana: Selected Writings (2009)