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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
First recorded in 1300-50, fearful is from the Middle English word 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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for fearful
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Has this fearful pestilence no power to restrain the appetites and passions of the people?

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • Though the cove was more quiet than the ocean, yet it was fearful enough, even there.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • That fearful alley was no place for human beings; certainly not for these two.

    Ester Ried Yet Speaking Isabella Alden
  • The sympathy of it stirred the listener to fearful memories.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • Your da's death was a fearful blow to her, and she never overed it.

    The Foolish Lovers St. John G. Ervine
British Dictionary definitions for fearful


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 fearful

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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