AskDefine | Define fear

Dictionary Definition



1 an emotion experienced in anticipation of some specific pain or danger (usually accompanied by a desire to flee or fight) [syn: fearfulness, fright] [ant: fearlessness]
2 an anxious feeling; "care had aged him"; "they hushed it up out of fear of public reaction" [syn: concern, care]
3 a profound emotion inspired by a deity; "the fear of God" [syn: reverence, awe, veneration]


1 be afraid or feel anxious or apprehensive about a possible or probable situation or event; "I fear she might get aggressive"
2 be afraid or scared of; be frightened of; "I fear the winters in Moscow"; "We should not fear the Communists!" [syn: dread]
3 be sorry; used to introduce an unpleasant statement; "I fear I won't make it to your wedding party"
4 be uneasy or apprehensive about; "I fear the results of the final exams"
5 regard with feelings of respect and reverence; consider hallowed or exalted or be in awe of; "Fear God as your father"; "We venerate genius" [syn: reverence, revere, venerate]

User Contributed Dictionary






  1. A strong, uncontrollable, unpleasant emotion caused by actual or perceived danger or threat.
    He was struck by fear on seeing the snake.
  2. A phobia, a sense of fear induced by something or someone.
    Not everybody has the same fears.
    I have a fear of ants.
  3. Extreme veneration or awe, as toward a supreme being or deity.

Derived terms


uncountable: emotion caused by actual or perceived danger or threat
  • Bosnian: strah
  • Catalan: por , paüra , basarda , temor
  • Croatian: strah
  • Czech: strach
  • Danish: angst, frygt
  • Estonian: hirm, kartus
  • Finnish: pelko, kammo
  • French: peur
  • German: Angst, Schreck
  • Hebrew: אימה (eimah)
  • Hungarian: félelem
  • Irish: eagla
  • Italian: paura
  • Japanese: 恐れ (osore)
  • Kurdish:
    Kurmanji: tirs
    Sorani: ترس
  • Malay: ketakutan
  • Occitan: paur
  • Polish: strach , niepokój
  • Portuguese: medo, temor
  • Romanian: frică, teamă
  • Russian: страх
  • Scottish Gaelic: eagal , uabhas , oillt
  • Serbian:
    Cyrillic: страх
    Roman: strah
  • Slovene: strah
  • Swedish: skräck
a phobia; sense of fear induced by something or someone
extreme veneration or awe
Translations to be checked


  1. To feel fear about (something).
    I fear the worst will happen.
  2. To venerate; to feel awe towards.
    People who fear God can be found in Christian churches.



feel fear about (something)

See also



  • lang=ga|[fʲaɾˠ]


From fer, from , from . Compare Welsh gŵr, Latin vir, Old English wer.



Scottish Gaelic


  • [fɛɾ]


First declension; forms with the definite article:

West Frisian


  1. ferry

Extensive Definition

Fear is an emotional response to tangible and realistic dangers. Fear should be distinguished from anxiety, an emotion that often arises out of proportion to the actual threat or danger involved, and can be subjectively experienced without any specific attention to the threatening object.
Most fear is usually connected to pain (e.g., some fear heights because if they fall, they may suffer severe injury or even die upon landing). Behavioral theorists, like Watson and Ekman, have suggested that fear is one of several very basic emotions (e.g., joy and anger). Fear is a survival mechanism, and usually occurs in response to a specific negative stimulus.


The Old English term fǣr meant not the emotion engendered by a calamity or disaster but rather the event itself. The first recorded usage of the term "fear" with the sense of the “emotion of fear” is found in a medieval work written in Middle English and composed around 1290. The most probable explanation for the change in the meaning of the word fear is the existence in Old English of the related verb fǣran, which meant “to terrify, take by surprise.”


Serious fear is a response to some formidable impending peril, while trifling fear arises from confrontation with inconsequential danger.
Fear can be described by different terms in accordance with its relative degrees. Personal fear varies extremely in degree from mild caution to extreme phobia and paranoia. Fear is related to a number of emotional states including worry, anxiety, terror, fright, paranoia, horror, panic (social and personal), persecution complex and dread.
Fears may be a factor within a larger social network, wherein personal fears are synergetically compounded as mass hysteria.
  • Paranoia is a term used to describe a psychosis of fear, described as a heightened perception of being persecuted, false or otherwise. This degree of fear often indicates that one has changed their normal behavior in radical ways, and may have become extremely compulsive. Sometimes, the result of extreme paranoia is a phobia.
  • Distrust in the context of interpersonal fear, is sometimes explained as the inward feeling of caution, usually focused towards a person, representing an unwillingness to trust in someone else. Distrust is not a lack of faith or belief in someone, but a feeling of warning towards someone or something questionable or unknown. For example, one may "distrust" a stranger who acts in a way that is perceived as "odd." Likewise one may "distrust" the safety of a rusty old bridge across a 100 ft drop.
  • Terror refers to a pronounced state of fear - which usually occurs before the state of horror - when someone becomes overwhelmed with a sense of immediate danger. Also, it can be caused by perceiving the (possibly extreme) phobia. As a consequence, terror overwhelms the person to the point of making irrational choices and non-typical behavior.
Fear can also affect the subconscious and unconscious mind, most notably through nightmares.
Fear can also be imagined, and the side effects can also be imagined.


Although fear is an innate response, objects of fear can be learned. This has been studied in psychology as fear conditioning, beginning with Watson's Little Albert experiment in 1920. In this study, an 11-month-old boy was conditioned to fear a white rat in the laboratory. In the real world, fear may also be acquired by a traumatic accident. For example, if a child falls into a well and struggles to get out, he or she may develop a fear of wells, enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) or of water (aquaphobia).
Researchers have found that certain fears (e.g. animals, heights) are much more common than others (e.g. flowers, clouds). They are also much easier to induce in the laboratory. This phenomenon has been called preparedness. Physiologically, the fear response is linked to activity in the amygdala of the limbic system.
The experience of fear may also be influenced by social norms and values. In the early 20th century, many people feared polio, a disease which cripples the body part it affects, leaving the body part immobilized for the rest of one's life.


Further reading

  • Joanna Bourke (2005), Fear: a cultural history, Virago
  • Corey Robin (2004), Fear: the history of a political idea, Oxford University Press
  • Duenwald, Mary. "The Psychology of ...Facial Expressions" Discovery Magazine Vol. 26 NO. 1
  • Krishnamurti, J. (1995), On Fear, Harper Collins, ISBN 0-06-251014-2

External links

fear in Arabic: خوف
fear in Bulgarian: Страх
fear in Catalan: Por
fear in Czech: Strach
fear in Welsh: Ofn
fear in German: Furcht
fear in Estonian: Hirm
fear in Modern Greek (1453-): Φόβος
fear in Spanish: Miedo
fear in Esperanto: Timo
fear in Persian: ترس
fear in French: Peur
fear in Galician: Medo
fear in Croatian: Strah
fear in Ido: Pavoro
fear in Inuktitut: ᐃᓂᖅᑐᐃᒍᑎ/iniqtuiguti
fear in Icelandic: Ótti
fear in Italian: Paura
fear in Hebrew: פחד
fear in Lithuanian: Baimė
fear in Dutch: Angst
fear in Japanese: 恐怖
fear in Norwegian: Frykt
fear in Polish: Strach
fear in Portuguese: Medo
fear in Romanian: Frică
fear in Quechua: Manchakuy
fear in Russian: Страх
fear in Sicilian: Scantu
fear in Simple English: Fear
fear in Slovak: Strach
fear in Serbian: Страх
fear in Finnish: Pelko
fear in Swedish: Rädsla
fear in Ukrainian: Страх
fear in Yiddish: שרעק
fear in Samogitian: Baimės
fear in Chinese: 敬畏

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abulia, agitation, alarm, all-overs, angst, anticipate, anxiety, anxiety hysteria, anxiety neurosis, anxious bench, anxious concern, anxious seat, anxiousness, apprehend, apprehension, apprehensiveness, attack of nerves, awe, back down, balance, be afraid, bete noire, bogey, bogy, buck fever, bugbear, cankerworm of care, care, case of nerves, chicken-liveredness, chickenheartedness, cold feet, cold sweat, concern, concernment, consternation, cowardice, cowardliness, cravenness, debate, deliberate, demur, diffidence, discomposure, dismay, disquiet, disquietude, distress, disturbance, dread, esteem, excessive irritability, expect, eye askance, faintheart, faintheartedness, faintness, falter, fearfulness, feeblemindedness, feebleness, fidgetiness, fidgets, foreboding, forebodingness, forebodings, foresee, frailty, fright, funk, hang back, have qualms, hem and haw, henheartedness, hesitate, hesitation, horror, hover, hum and haw, imagine, infirmity, inquietude, jib, lily-liveredness, malaise, milksopism, milksoppiness, milksoppishness, misgive, misgiving, morbid excitability, nerves, nervosity, nervous stomach, nervous strain, nervous tension, nervousness, nightmare, overanxiety, panic, panickiness, pause, perturbation, phobia, pigeonheartedness, pins and needles, pliability, ponder, presentiment, pucker, pull back, qualms, quiver, respect, retreat, revere, reverence, scare, scruple, second thoughts, shilly-shally, shrink from, shudder at, shy, sit upon thorns, softness, solicitude, spell of nerves, spinelessness, stage fright, stand aghast, state of nerves, stew, stick at, stickle, stop to consider, straddle the fence, strain, strain at, suspect, suspense, tension, terror, think twice about, tic, timidity, timidness, timorousness, trepidation, trepidity, trouble, twitching, unease, uneasiness, unmanfulness, unmanliness, unquietness, upset, vellication, venerate, veneration, vexation, weak will, weak-mindedness, weakheartedness, weakness, withdraw, worry, yellowness, yield, zeal
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