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[feer-fuh l] /ˈfɪər fəl/
causing or apt to cause fear; frightening:
a fearful apparition.
feeling fear, dread, apprehension, or solicitude:
fearful for his life; fearful lest he commit suicide.
full of awe or reverence:
fearful of the Lord.
showing or caused by fear:
fearful behavior.
extreme in size, intensity, or badness:
a fearful head cold; fearful poverty.
Origin of fearful
1300-50; Middle English ferful. See fear, -ful
Related forms
fearfully, adverb
fearfulness, noun
overfearful, adjective
overfearfully, adverb
overfearfulness, noun
prefearful, adjective
prefearfully, adverb
unfearful, adjective
unfearfully, adverb
unfearfulness, noun
Can be confused
fearful, fearsome.
2. afraid, timid, timorous, apprehensive, uneasy, distrustful; solicitous, anxious, concerned, worried. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for fearful
  • Once it became a little less unknown it became a little less fearful.
  • fearful of lawsuits, they are consumed by the legal obligations of personnel policies.
  • As the protests persist, people are fearful yet defiant.
  • The lack of socialization to people and the outside world can cause a dog to be fearful.
  • It is the military custom to salute a visiting ruler, or his proxy, with twenty-one distinct and fearful noises.
  • fearful of being dubbed collaborators, the protesters have called off rallies until the end of the month.
  • Psychologists have known for some time that it is difficult to treat fearful memories with therapy.
  • It seems to me that the meaning is you are returning back to a lower sun but don't be fearful.
  • There were repercussions far from the testing grounds, too, as both sides became more and more fearful and paranoid of the other.
  • It is a fearful step, but after the first step, it gets much easier.
British Dictionary definitions for fearful


having fear; afraid
causing fear; frightening
(informal) very unpleasant or annoying: a fearful cold
Derived Forms
fearfulness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for fearful

mid-14c., "causing fear," from fear + -ful. Meaning "full of fear, timid" (now less common) also is from mid-14c. As a mere emphatic, from 1630s. Related: Fearfully; fearfulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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