Definition of fear in English:



mass noun
  • 1An unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.

    ‘I cowered in fear as bullets whizzed past’
    ‘fear of unemployment is paralysing the economy’
    count noun ‘he is prey to irrational fears’
    • ‘He rears up and instills fear into the hearts of his adversaries.’
    • ‘Perhaps these liabilities were the reason dance audiences were small, but if so, people's fears were unfounded.’
    • ‘However, so far, I've heard nothing from the relevant authorities to allay the fears expressed.’
    • ‘If you can swing the bat and get on base, it might strike even more fear in their eyes.’
    • ‘The tourism sector is also trying to calm fears of negative repercussions from last week's events.’
    • ‘How does one overcome the fear of rejection?’
    • ‘The great French Revolution of 1789 struck fear into the hearts of every European ruler.’
    • ‘Accordingly, I find that the applicants do not have a well-founded fear of persecution.’
    • ‘She breathed heavily and felt fear grip her body.’
    • ‘Ironically the figures consistently confirm that fear of crime is completely out of proportion with reality.’
    • ‘Accordingly, there was no arguable case that he had a well-founded fear of persecution.’
    • ‘No doubt this is motivated by a fear of litigation.’
    • ‘His name eventually struck fear into the hearts of common folk throughout the three factions.’
    • ‘He observed her without emotion once again, seeing the irrational fear in her eyes.’
    • ‘There was a look of genuine fear in his eyes, unsure as to whether or not she was real.’
    • ‘Reinforcing that plan will necessitate US forces on the ground to overcome genuine security fears.’
    • ‘Yet beneath Howard's rhetorical bravura, you sense a genuine fear of death.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, the boy and his family live in constant fear of a reprisal.’
    • ‘It is important to make oneself accustomed to pain and danger without fear.’
    • ‘I will give him the chance to prove that my worst fears are unfounded.’
    terror, fright, fearfulness, horror, alarm, panic, agitation, trepidation, dread, consternation, dismay, distress
    phobia, aversion, antipathy, dread, bugbear, bogey, nightmare, horror, terror
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1fear forcount noun A feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety of someone.
      ‘police launched a hunt for the family amid fears for their safety’
      • ‘He had recently expressed fears for his safety.’
      • ‘Some are working up to 72-hour weekends, sparking fears about their safety.’
      • ‘An absence of staff and police officers, lighting problems and limited use of security cameras have been identified as some of the factors behind safety fears.’
      • ‘The union insists the dispute concerns health and safety fears.’
      • ‘The newspapers have been responsibly restrained in their editorials which reflect the growing fears and safety concerns of the citizenry.’
      • ‘Proposals for massive wind turbines at Felliscliffe have been rejected amid fears about aircraft safety.’
      • ‘Their supporters have repeatedly expressed fears for their safety as long as they remain in Colombia.’
      • ‘A source close to the star told the paper: "He is in real fear for his life."’
      • ‘A planning inspector has given the go-ahead for the site of a former jam factory at Easterton to be developed, despite fears over safety.’
      • ‘All the UK stores are temporarily closed amid safety fears.’
      • ‘But that is not enough to quash parental fears about its safety.’
      • ‘Airport officials are being invited to a meeting in Burley-in-Wharfedale amid fears about the safety of aircraft flying over the area.’
      • ‘He does, however, see an opportunity for brands to provide consumers with comfort and relief from the anxieties caused by safety fears.’
      • ‘He said research showed that the physical environment in which people live had a direct impact upon fears and concerns about their safety.’
      • ‘When the original pilots voted to withdraw their services amid fears over river safety, their contracts ran out during the strike.’
      • ‘That means passengers face further chaos and safety fears.’
      • ‘The FA says the discrepancy arose due to fears about safety.’
      • ‘The traffic commissioner's inquiry slashed the company's operating licence from 35 buses to 25 because of safety fears.’
      • ‘The RAF team cancelled their display due to safety fears, leaving thousands of spectators angry and disappointed.’
      • ‘Families spoke of their own fears about the safety of their own children.’
    2. 1.2 The likelihood of something unwelcome happening.
      ‘she observed the other guests without fear of attracting attention’
      • ‘I have a terrible fear of loss, I have a terrible fear of the unexpected happening.’
      • ‘And many fear what will happen to their children if the option of simply closing the school is pursued.’
      • ‘I did not pull out the money in fear of what might happen if I did dare do so.’
      • ‘I do fear what will happen when it is found out who committed this act - military action probably will follow.’
      • ‘Is it right for society to live in fear and risk the chance of another murder?’
      • ‘Darren didn't say anything as he shivered from the cold and from his fear of what would happen to him now.’
      • ‘Because of the history, there is a lot of fear of what may happen.’
      • ‘She had not wanted to stop kissing him, in fear of what would happen afterwards.’
      • ‘The pit of my stomach had an odd feeling of excitement mixed with fear of what was happening between Raleigh and me.’
      • ‘The creeping fear of what might happen next is influencing public opinion even in the American heartlands.’
      • ‘A fear of the risk in making significant investment in automated applications is putting off many companies which could benefit.’
      • ‘Having decided to remain here, it makes no sense that I walk around and live in total fear of what could happen to me.’
      • ‘These words express fear of the possibility of a destructive risk that lurks in poetry.’
      • ‘I only fear what may happen if drivers do find Crossborough Hill a cheaper means of parking.’
      • ‘All the time I'm either in fear of what will happen, or I think I ought to be afraid, but this morning I felt strong and resolute.’
      • ‘And what's the thing you most fear happening to man, with technology?’
      • ‘He collapsed to the floor and Cain stood there; frozen in fear at what was happening next.’
      • ‘Their fear of what might happen made them hesitate, only for a second, but it was enough.’
      • ‘Now all he felt like doing was whimpering in panic and fear of what would happen if his family ever found him.’
      • ‘Walking into the room he was confused and overcome with fear of what might happen.’
      likelihood, likeliness, prospect, possibility, chance, odds, probability, expectation, conceivability, feasibility, plausibility
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    3. 1.3archaic A mixed feeling of dread and reverence.
      ‘the love and fear of God’
      • ‘The Table is a place of feasting and refreshment, but also a place of mystery tinged with reverent fear.’
      • ‘At the centre of it all is a shallow self-centred consumerism, coupled with a debilitating absence of fear and reverence for God.’
      awe, wonder, wonderment, amazement
      View synonyms


[with object]
  • 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’
    • ‘He explains that men see the world as a dangerous place and fear other men.’
    • ‘I wouldn't mind death, so I could escape my tormentors here, but I fear the painful ways of dying the men here invent.’
    • ‘They are likely to fear that federalism might lead to secession.’
    • ‘Far more people fear snakes than are likely to find themselves in the presence of their slippery scales.’
    • ‘Economists fear unemployment is likely to persist for longer than in previous recessions.’
    • ‘For a society which so worships youth and health and so fears disease and death, nothing could be more existentially devastating than the death of a child.’
    • ‘He is reported to have said last April that farmers feared vaccination would destroy the home market for their meat.’
    • ‘It prompted calls for Government help from Yorkshire farmers who feared losses running into tens of thousands of pounds.’
    • ‘Police today told how they feared a dangerous gang of muggers may strike again if they are not caught soon.’
    • ‘Maybe that guy who fears snakes is just afraid of the image of the snake - the forked tongue, the rattling tail, the evilness inherent in the creature.’
    • ‘Some feared the dangerous ideas that might result from so many women confined in a large building.’
    • ‘Police fear violence is likely in station cells as inmate overcrowding worsens.’
    • ‘The son of a man sentenced to death fears his life may also be in danger unless he is granted asylum.’
    • ‘Terror is the causing of large numbers of people to fear sudden violence and death.’
    • ‘When the person it was addressed to opened it, he feared it was dangerous and police were called in.’
    • ‘There had been a great burden on me all my life, to hold back, to fear death, to fear pain.’
    • ‘Arable farmers who feared their crops would be washed away by continual downpours this time last year are now praying for rain.’
    • ‘Farmers fear it will lead to large-scale instability and grower losses in the industry.’
    • ‘Her owners are now calling for dog walkers to put muzzles on dangerous pets, fearing a child could be injured.’
    • ‘Farmers fear huge losses as cracks have surfaced in the fields where paddy was sown recently.’
    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
    have a phobia about, have a horror of, have a dread of, shudder at, take fright at
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1fear forno object Feel anxiety on behalf of.
      ‘I fear for the city with this madman let loose in it’
      • ‘That can be very difficult if the source of the information is reluctant to appear in court, e.g. because he fears for his life.’
      • ‘His resignation will be a tragedy for the city and I fear for some of his patients.’
      • ‘I feared for my life, and the anxiety of not being able to escape was getting to me.’
      • ‘If he is successful, one fears for civilized life in Toronto and other urban centres in Ontario.’
      • ‘Before dawn breaks, Lot's family and the travellers flee the city, fearing for their lives.’
      • ‘A youth club approaching its first birthday is still going strong but the leader fears for the future of its community hall home.’
      • ‘Since then she has not had any contact and fears for the islanders who have been coping without power and clean water.’
      • ‘If a citizen applies for a gun licence, it is because he fears for his life.’
      • ‘He fears for the health of children playing on and near the rubbish and, along with other residents, is sick of looking at the eyesore.’
      • ‘A mother living just across the road from the man's flat fears for the safety of her four young children.’
      • ‘The company, which employs 79 people, now fears for its future in the village.’
      • ‘Jaye has no idea why these objects are talking to her and initially fears for her sanity.’
      • ‘Republicans across the city had feared for the future of the administration.’
      • ‘She says she now fears for the health of youngsters attending the nursery, in Hospital Fields Road.’
      • ‘But a reversal of traffic flow, introduced in November by the city council, has got traders fearing for their future.’
      • ‘A businessman from Manchester fears for his relatives trapped in the besieged city.’
      • ‘She slumped against a pillar that stood stalwart in the mess of the city, fearing for the safety of those now under her charge.’
      • ‘He fears for his life and has applied for a personal protection weapon.’
      • ‘He fears for customers in the area and the future of other Andover post offices.’
      • ‘She claims he is not going to school and she fears for his future.’
      worry about, feel anxious about, feel concerned about, have anxieties about, have qualms about, feel disquiet for, be solicitous for
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    2. 1.2with infinitive Avoid doing something because one is afraid.
      ‘she eventually feared to go out at all’
      • ‘He says that most refugees fear to leave their apartment blocks on Friday or Saturday nights.’
      • ‘My friends would give me tips but they feared to be associated with me.’
      • ‘We fear to punish unjustly so we've taken the sword from the hand of justice and given her a wet noodle.’
      • ‘He wasn't junior for long and began to rise through the ranks in a kitchen where other chefs feared to tread.’
      • ‘Yet as long as they were killing us in small batches, we responded with passivity, fearing to stir up more trouble.’
      • ‘The new leaderships will have to enjoy credibility in the places where peacemakers fear to go.’
      • ‘Not fearing to reunite old enemies alongside old friends, they are organising a school reunion for the class of 1978.’
      • ‘All I can say is that where emperors fear to tread, ordinary mortals must hesitate.’
      • ‘What reservoir of feelings or sensibilities do we fear to assault by simply calling it so?’
      • ‘She wished to hide her face in her book, but feared to look unwomanly, so played with her gloves instead, looking down.’
      • ‘I walked quickly but did not run, fearing to enrage them further.’
      • ‘We fear to leave and enter the houses at the front doors, and guess what?’
      • ‘If angels fear to tread this particular route, few would blame them.’
      • ‘She won't fight with Mother but I am always one to wade in where angels fear to tread.’
      • ‘And they quickly withdraw, fearing to lose their integrity in the frailty of realisation.’
      • ‘Only a superficial soul fears to fraternize with itself.’
      • ‘I feared to sip a drop of water, and I am sure that the timpanist saw me looking at him in awe and amazement.’
      • ‘Weaker spouses, and children, were at risk but feared to act against their abuser.’
      • ‘After his release the pensioner told how he feared to leave his hotel room and had all his calls screened.’
      • ‘No wonder my friend and colleagues fear to go home before the boss, even when he's just killing time with his mates late at night.’
      be too afraid, be too scared, be too apprehensive, hesitate
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    3. 1.3 Used to express regret or apology.
      ‘I shall buy her book, though not, I fear, the hardback version’
    4. 1.4archaic Regard (God) with reverence and awe.
      ‘he urged his listeners to fear God’
      • ‘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
      View synonyms


  • for fear of (or that)

    • To avoid the risk of (or that)

      ‘no one dared refuse the order for fear of losing their job’
      • ‘This is exactly the sort of compulsive behaviour I have to avoid for fear of going mad.’
      • ‘Many young people are refusing to contribute for fear that they will receive nothing back in their old age.’
      • ‘It is applied in so many places that we often avoid using the word for fear that we will be misunderstood.’
      • ‘Players were afraid to take defensive risks for fear that no one would help out, and often no one would.’
      • ‘He speculated that the tree was ill and the koalas knew of it, avoiding the leaves for fear of food poisoning.’
      • ‘I cannot allow my friends' children to play there for fear of what they may step in.’
      • ‘He told the court she had a violent temper and he was too afraid to cross her for fear of what she might do.’
      • ‘There are certain questions that you don't dare ask yourself for fear of what the answer might be.’
      • ‘I do not let my seven and eight year olds play out for fear of what might happen.’
      • ‘Annie wanted to scream, but didn't dare, for fear of what might happen if she did.’
      in case, just in case, for fear that, in order to avoid, to avoid the risk of
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  • never fear

    • Used to reassure someone.

      ‘we shall meet again, never fear’
      • ‘The clock ticks, and still that perfect gift eludes… but never fear!’
      • ‘And, never fear, all art was judged by an independent board so you can rest assured that only ‘worthy’ art will be seen by the throngs of visitors.’
      • ‘If you missed it - as you probably did - never fear.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘On the other hand, if you'd like to take advantage of these incentives but are concerned about booking online, never fear.’
      • ‘I'll keep you posted on weather happenings here, never fear!’
      • ‘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 - puppeteering will continue in Philadelphia.’
      • ‘Next week there will be no circuit training because of Christmas, but never fear it will return after Christmas, so you can shed those pounds that have been gained because of all the puddings.’
      • ‘If you didn't get to participate this time, never fear.’
  • no fear

    • 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’
      • ‘There was something about those last two words - delivered with a kind of implied terror - that put the fear of God in me.’
      • ‘If I saw someone with a rifle running towards me, it would put the fear of God into me as well.’
      • ‘If that puts the fear of God in you, then you should know we're here for you.’
      • ‘One of the lightening bolts put the fear of God into me!’
      • ‘His tactic at a meeting in Washington this August with state emergency managers was to put 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.’
      • ‘Last year they put the fear of God in us that our homes were going to fall down around our ears and that we would need to move out immediately.’
      • ‘They must observe human rights at all times as well as protect people rather than putting the fear of God into them.’
      • ‘We want people to take sensitive precautions - we don't want to put the fear of God into them.’
      • ‘Your mother and I are trying to put the fear of God into you, but, nothing seems to be working, does it?’
  • without fear or favour

    • Impartially.

      ‘take all your decisions 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?’
      • ‘But surely the answer isn't to abolish the fee but to insist that it is spent on quality drama and serious news, controversial where necessary and without fear or favour to the powers-that-be.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘University researchers know that funding from business is not necessarily submission to the dictates of the market, but perhaps the only guarantee of being able to conduct research without fear or favour.’
      • ‘He has, without fear or favour, consistently stood up for the people of Bootham and of the city.’
      • ‘I guess this post is going to land me in trouble with some people but I have spent my whole life speaking without fear or favour so I am not going to retreat from telling the facts now.’
      • ‘We all know that these proposals would be implemented without fear or favour - but only among those least able to survive a wage cut which took them down to a weekly salary of £60.’
      • ‘Judges are supposed to impartially interpret the law without fear or favour.’
      • ‘In these days when many charges of sensationalism are levelled against the media, it is the weekly papers of the country which are upholding the traditions of reportage without fear or favour.’
      • ‘They have specific legislation securing their independence, permanence, identity and mandate - and their freedom to work professionally, without fear or favour.’
      fair, just
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Old English fǣr ‘calamity, danger’, fǣran ‘frighten’, also ‘revere’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch gevaar and German Gefahr ‘danger’.