Definition of frighten in English:



  • 1 Make (someone) afraid or anxious.

    ‘the savagery of his thoughts frightened him’
    ‘farmers are being frightened into scaling down their breeding plans’
    • ‘I must warn you that this image will shock and frighten you and if you are old or weak please do not look at it.’
    • ‘‘This frightens us,’ said Belgian Farm Minister Jaak Gabriels.’
    • ‘This administration sickens, disgusts, and frightens me.’
    • ‘Being unemployed neither bores nor frightens me.’
    • ‘They were afraid that the sounds and smells would frighten him more.’
    • ‘Yet, there is enough in the survey to frighten many.’
    • ‘It's not the distance we will walk that frightens us, but the variety of climates we will have to contend with.’
    • ‘He said people should avoid wearing masks while walking from house to house as they can intimidate and frighten people.’
    • ‘The Master, James, finally dies only after he has succeeded in frightening his luckless victim into dying first.’
    • ‘This frightens me because I will turn twenty this year.’
    • ‘She grew afraid that the men who had frightened her before would try to harm her.’
    • ‘This woman's rage frightens me.’
    • ‘Like a doctor afraid to frighten a patient with a truthful diagnosis, it doesn't say half enough.’
    • ‘The whole drugs thing does frighten me, and I know it frightens other athletes.’
    • ‘But what really frightens me is what happens on the next day.’
    • ‘And that's what frightens me about this election on Saturday.’
    • ‘Wind frightens her, especially at night as it sends chills down her spine.’
    • ‘You know, that argument really frightens me.’
    • ‘It was an accomplishment, to frighten the person who had so often terrified him.’
    • ‘His change in tone frightened her and she knew that his next words would chill her to the bone.’
    scare, startle, alarm, terrify, petrify, shock, chill, appal, agitate, panic, throw into panic, fluster, ruffle, shake, disturb, disconcert, unnerve, unman, intimidate, terrorize, cow, daunt, dismay
    fill someone with fear, strike terror into, put the fear of god into, chill someone's blood, chill someone to the bone, chill someone to the marrow, make someone's blood run cold, freeze someone's blood, make someone's flesh crawl, give someone goose pimples
    scare the living daylights out of, scare stiff, scare someone out of their wits, scare witless, scare someone to death, scare someone half to death, scare the pants off, rattle, spook, make someone's hair stand on end, throw into a blue funk, make someone jump out of their skin
    put the wind up, give someone the heebie-jeebies, make someone's hair curl
    terrifying, horrifying, alarming, startling, shocking, chilling, spine-chilling, hair-raising, blood-curdling, appalling, disturbing, disconcerting, unnerving, intimidating, daunting, dismaying, upsetting, harrowing, traumatic
    eerie, sinister, fearsome, dreadful, horrible, awful, nightmarish, monstrous, grim, gruesome, macabre, menacing
    scary, spooky, creepy, hairy
    scare the bejesus out of
    scare shitless
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Deter someone or something from involvement or action by making them afraid.
      ‘if you say anything to him you might frighten him off’
      ‘the government denies legal responsibility, presumably to frighten off other claimants’
      • ‘They decided to frighten her off by firing an arrow so it would noisily strike the pot.’
      • ‘People who lived here carried on pretty much as normal, but outsiders were frightened off.’
      • ‘The eagerness almost frightened Anna off, but she also found it incredibly sweet.’
      • ‘Clark pulled the baton out of his vehicle and waved it at them to frighten them off, and was later arrested.’
      • ‘He was terrified, however, that his demonic heritage would frighten her off and hid it as best he could.’
      • ‘But it needs some sort of camera or a talking sign like they have in Cheetham Street, which frightens the criminals off.’
      • ‘‘A fat man in the queue frightened me off,’ said Simon.’
      • ‘They got in and took a few things, but the alarm frightened them off before they got much.’
      • ‘‘The amount of bad media coverage frightened the guy off,’ he said.’
      • ‘If you have read this far and I haven't managed to frighten you off and you'd still like to hire me, then great!’
      • ‘That usually frightens the crowd off for a while.’
      • ‘Police believe the culprits were frightened off by the alarm.’
      • ‘Since it's the first living thing he's seen in ages, he pursues it and only manages to frighten it off.’
      • ‘The rabbit will sit and stare at the light until something else frightens it off or it is shot.’
      • ‘Richard comes across Mel in a bar and drags her outside to demand his credit cards back and frighten her off once and for all.’
      • ‘There was a further struggle in which they tried to take the bag but the milkman's shouts frightened them off.’
      • ‘I am not saying this to frighten you off but to give you an idea of what the world there is like.’
      • ‘What was it about this project that had frightened them off?’
      • ‘A squirrel got into his birdfeeder and he tried to frighten it off with an air rifle, but he killed it instead and was sick for a week.’
      • ‘Once when they tried to frighten it off, it seized the drogue rope and gave the dinghy a spin.’
    2. 1.2[no object](of a person) become afraid or anxious.
      ‘at his age, I guess he doesn't frighten any more’


  • frighten the horses

    • [usually with negative]Do something likely to cause public outrage or offence.

      ‘David's views would not have frightened the horses’
      • ‘Has been stealthily been doing his bit to redistribute wealth without frightening the horses (and the newspapers).’
      • ‘David's views, which surely should have been known, would not have frightened the horses.’
      • ‘Although the minimum wage was introduced at a level calculated not to frighten the horses, its potential ratcheting up is a ticking time-bomb in the engine room of the economy.’
      • ‘Even on the fashion front, although the dresses were classically glamorous, not one would have frightened the horses.’
      • ‘In order to stay in office, such a government would probably do very little to frighten the horses.’
      • ‘We don't want him frightening the horses of middle England when the Tories finally have some momentum.’
      • ‘Who cares what the Bishop of Reading gets up to in his spare time; provided he doesn't do it in the street and frighten the horses?’
      • ‘Labour is still afraid, or unwilling, to say exactly what it is doing, so it uses euphemisms which won't frighten the horses.’
      • ‘The Government does not want to frighten the horses.’
      • ‘The number one priority in TV comedy today is ' don't frighten the horses ', and it's probably number two and three as well.’