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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 fearfulness
Historical Examples
  • After these words the angel brought him to the brink of a valley that was stupendous for depth and fearfulness.

  • You, I know, lay this to his fearfulness of disobliging or offending.

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • His eighty-five years did not tame him at all, did not blunt his conception of the "fearfulness and wonderfulness of life."

    Fresh Fields John Burroughs
  • Those who have not felt it know not the fearfulness of waiting for an Indian attack.

    The Crossing Winston Churchill
  • Sometimes her relatives stole into the house to see her and hoped, with fearfulness, not to meet her husband in some passageway.

    On the Stairs Henry B. Fuller
  • The fearfulness of the consequences shows how false the supposed principle must be.

    Sermons Clement Bailhache
  • Yet the kissings that came after made the fearfulness almost the sweetest thing in their prayer-sayings to each other.

    The Field of Clover Laurence Housman
  • How shall I describe to you this pressure, its fearfulness and sublimity!

  • Apparently the Americans owe a great debt of gratitude to Mrs. Franklin's fearfulness of the untrustworthy Atlantic.

    Benjamin Franklin John Torrey Morse, Jr.
  • And as for the fearfulness of it and its fierce and awesome beauty, who can describe it?

    Allan Quatermain H. Rider Haggard
British Dictionary definitions for fearfulness


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 fearfulness



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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