Definition of terror in English:



  • 1mass noun Extreme fear.

    ‘people fled in terror’
    in singular ‘she had a terror of darkness’
    • ‘Suddenly Vanga asked whether there was someone else in the room and I froze in terror.’
    • ‘Arsonists torched a town-centre bar, causing residents in nearby houses to flee in terror.’
    • ‘Witnesses described seeing office staff fleeing in terror from the scene when the siege began at 10 am.’
    • ‘All I can say to the boys is that our obligation lies in helping others, in grieving, and in refusing to live in terror.’
    • ‘Sharing the terror of a close call and then the euphoria of survival is an experience that binds for a lifetime.’
    • ‘A victim of nuisance youths has described how he waits in terror for what they will do next.’
    • ‘For months, he lived in terror of the secret police knocking at his door.’
    • ‘The original house was built on an ancient graveyard and its last owner is rumoured to have fled in terror at the ghostly goings on.’
    • ‘She flies inside in terror, trembling all over, and that day decides to put back the curtain.’
    • ‘We are told that rural communities live in terror of crime and it might be true.’
    • ‘A lorry driver who got out of his cab to remonstrate with a motorist fled in terror when the man produced a gun, a court heard.’
    • ‘He awoke in terror, thinking he was in a tunnel that had collapsed.’
    • ‘In fact, it's surprising how little you notice when you've got your eyes firmly shut and you're screaming in terror.’
    • ‘Each time I turned in terror to look back I nearly jumped out of my skin anticipating what I might see.’
    • ‘He was utterly exhausted, and the terror of the last few hours had finally caught up with him.’
    • ‘No longer in control of his own body, facing mortality, he had plenty of reason for terror.’
    • ‘I have lived those years both in dread of attending the party and in terror of missing it.’
    • ‘Every single day and night we had to sit in terror of the next bomb, the next plane, the next explosion.’
    • ‘The humiliation of not being able to swim was bad, of course - but the terror of taking my feet off the bottom was far, far worse.’
    • ‘Fearing a curse, the townspeople fled in terror as soon as the weather broke.’
    extreme fear, dread, horror, fear and trembling, fright, trepidation, alarm, panic, shock
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 The use of extreme fear to intimidate people.
      ‘weapons of terror’
      • ‘Their goal is simply to cause terror without a justified reason.’
      • ‘A phoney secret agent and his wife are in custody awaiting sentence for their campaign of terror against a family.’
      • ‘They attacked free settlers and used terror to intimidate those opposed to slavery.’
      • ‘You don't use weapons of terror on people you are intending to liberate.’
      • ‘The reasons for eliminating terror are clear, and speak to simple self-preservation.’
      • ‘Swindon magistrates heard they had waged a campaign of terror in the past six months, causing mayhem for shoppers and staff.’
      • ‘Elderly residents in a Maldon street have been driven to the brink of despair by yobs who they say have subjected them to a campaign of terror.’
      • ‘There will no doubt be other successes which we can't know about yet because they are part of the ongoing campaign against terror.’
      • ‘From the very outset all the combatants knew that the bomb would be both a weapon of destruction and a weapon of terror.’
      • ‘Our best chance of marginalising those who deal in terror is to retain our humanity while responding to their inhumanity.’
      • ‘Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.’
      • ‘The Prime Minister pledged to do all that was necessary to root out the criminal minority behind the campaign of terror.’
      • ‘The many fundamental reasons that people resort to terror remain unaddressed’
      • ‘Several documents reflected the terror of the late 1930s and are in the form of denunciations.’
      • ‘An armed robber who waged a campaign of terror against businesses in Manchester has been jailed for life.’
      • ‘A schoolboy was today behind bars for subjecting a family to a campaign of terror and intimidation.’
      • ‘Is the government complicit in this campaign of violence and terror?’
      • ‘We are confronting the nexus between terror and weapons of mass destruction.’
      • ‘Their job was to secure public order through terror, intimidation and violence.’
      • ‘Political repression and state terror have also been shown to result in significant psychological sequelae.’
    2. 1.2often as modifier Terrorism.
      ‘a terror suspect’
      ‘a terror attack’
      • ‘I mean, I would say, the first obligation is to really investigate have an independent investigation about what happened during this eight years of the so-called war against terror.’
      • ‘I do think that we should have built the international coalition first, instead of distracting attention and shifting time, effort, and energy away from the war on terror.’
      • ‘Therefore, we are talking of liberating the Pashtuns from terrorists, freeing them from terrorists, and also freeing them from unnecessary attacks of those who are waging the war on terror.’
      • ‘They were being manufactured for unlawful ends to wreak violence through terror.’
      • ‘The killing of Yassin, along with the wider bloodletting in the occupied territories, will further heighten the Arab and Muslim anger that is fuelling Islamist terror attacks.’
      • ‘Failing to find popular support in many countries, particularly in Latin America and Asia, antigovernment forces went over to mass-scale terror.’
      • ‘The war on terror is really a war on Islam.’
      • ‘If a terrorist is leaving on a mission to carry out a terror attack, you prevent his arrival.’
      • ‘In a few nations (as a rule, those who remember themselves as victims rather than perpetrators of terror), the memorials and the debates are very prominent indeed.’
      • ‘The United States has taken the lead role in confronting tyranny and terror.’
      • ‘Such a balance of terror is in fact the foundation for global nuclear security.’
      • ‘He faces a tough few months, with rebellions likely on the European constitution as well as the terror laws before the crunch local elections in May.’
      • ‘To combat terror the government has focused extensively on domestic legislation.’
      • ‘The terror attacks of September 11, 2001, in the US also provided the European governments with the pretext for a frontal assault on basic rights.’
      • ‘The latest news from the terror front is hardly all grim.’
      • ‘That was a mistake, for though 21st century terror is like a criminal operation, it is also much more.’
      • ‘Deciding to hold it in a Red Sea resort that had just suffered a horrible terror attack was meant to send a powerful message.’
      • ‘The war on terror is hard for many to swallow.’
      • ‘They are rejected by relatives who are reminded of the terrors committed by the Janjaweed every time they look at their small faces.’
      • ‘It's a move that could help ease the political crisis in Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terror.’
    3. 1.3in singular A person or thing that causes extreme fear.
      ‘his delivery is the terror of even world-class batsmen’
      • ‘They were the terrors of every 7 - Eleven parking lot, the most feared guests at every house party.’
      • ‘Bumped into old East Londoner Peter Dyter - a second year who was the terror of Merriman new boys.’
      • ‘At nineteen, Jeremiah McAuley was a thief and the terror of the New York waterfront.’
      demon, fiend, devil, monster
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4the Terror The period of the French Revolution between mid 1793 and July 1794 when the ruling Jacobin faction, dominated by Robespierre, ruthlessly executed anyone considered a threat to their regime.
      Also called "Reign of Terror"
  • 2informal A person, especially a child, that causes trouble or annoyance.

    • ‘They are the touchline terrors whose aggression and foul language is matched only by the players on the pitch.’
    • ‘As a public service, here are some bright ideas to keep those tiny tot terrors away.’
    • ‘Thankfully, my own little terrors decided to play fair on New Year's Day and let me have a bit of a lie-in until 8.45 am.’
    • ‘The three Mexican terrors know and respect the Belfast man, who lives and trains in the boxing crossroads of Las Vegas.’
    • ‘If you believe children should be seen and not heard, it may be best to avoid visiting during the school holidays - when tiny terrors abound.’
    • ‘When everyone was done, and the two little terrors had both used the rest room, we went back to the RV and set off again.’
    • ‘Parents will also be sent home with a relaxation tape to help them unwind after a stressful day with their teenage terrors.’
    • ‘Colin and I were from totally different upbringings but we really clicked and we were both just little terrors.’
    rascal, devil, imp, monkey, wretch, scamp, mischief-maker, troublemaker
    View synonyms


  • have (or hold) no terrors for someone

    • Not frighten or worry someone.

      ‘death held no terrors for him’
      • ‘Prokofiev's daunting cluster chords and rapid fire pianistic flourishes held no terrors for her.’
      • ‘So taking the Kildare job really held no terrors for Nolan?’
      • ‘True, it's one of Verdi's most demanding tenor parts, but the notes obviously hold no terrors for Licitra.’
      • ‘Giovanna's coloratura holds no terrors for her, and the assurance of her technique - every note is hit dead on - is matched only by her assured interpretation.’
      • ‘Of course I'm concerned about getting it right, but it holds no terrors for me because I have played Lear, and Lear is the most difficult of all.’
      • ‘A former high-class hurdler, Deep Water has always looked as though fences would hold no terrors for him.’
      • ‘This gruelling three and a half miles will hold no terrors for Scotton Green, who gave notice that his winning turn was near at Catterick last month when he chased home Ballystone.’
      • ‘The open pan of the valley had no terrors for us in daylight.’
      • ‘Other than minor episodes like this, nighttime holds no terrors for them.’


Late Middle English: from Old French terrour, from Latin terror, from terrere ‘frighten’.