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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for fearfulness
Historical Examples
  • You, I know, lay this to his fearfulness of disobliging or offending.

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • The fearfulness of Gibson's perfidy was almost incomprehensible.

    Spring Street James H. Richardson
  • Those who have not felt it know not the fearfulness of waiting for an Indian attack.

    The Crossing Winston Churchill
  • The fearfulness of the consequences shows how false the supposed principle must be.

    Sermons Clement Bailhache
  • How shall I describe to you this pressure, its fearfulness and sublimity!

  • And as for the fearfulness of it and its fierce and awesome beauty, who can describe it?

    Allan Quatermain H. Rider Haggard
  • The fearfulness of their nature makes them very jealous and implacable.

  • He tried to grasp the situation and fearfulness does not help at such a time.

    The Hate Disease William Fitzgerald Jenkins
  • It is only the fearfulness of the odds to which most of them are subjected that succeeds in killing them.

    Feminism and Sex-Extinction

    Arabella Kenealy
  • This feeling of distrust and fearfulness will soon pass away.

British Dictionary definitions for fearfulness


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 fearfulness



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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