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[frahyt-n] /ˈfraɪt n/
verb (used with object)
to make afraid or fearful; throw into a fright; terrify; scare.
to drive (usually followed by away, off, etc.) by scaring:
to frighten away pigeons from the roof.
verb (used without object)
to become frightened:
a timid child who frightens easily.
Origin of frighten
1660-70; fright + -en1
Related forms
frightenable, adjective
frightener, noun
frighteningly, adverb
nonfrightening, adjective
nonfrighteningly, adverb
overfrighten, verb
unfrightening, adjective
1. shock, startle, dismay, intimidate. Frighten, alarm, scare, terrify, terrorize, appall all mean to arouse fear in people or animals. To frighten is to shock with sudden, startling, but usually short-lived fear, especially that arising from the apprehension of physical harm: to frighten someone by a sudden noise. To alarm is to arouse the feelings through the realization of some imminent or unexpected danger: to alarm someone by a scream. To scare is to frighten, often without the presence of real danger: Horror movies really scare me. To terrify is to strike with violent, overwhelming, or paralyzing fear: to terrify a city by lawless acts. To terrorize is to terrify in a general, continued, systematic manner, either wantonly or in order to gain control: His marauding armies terrorized the countryside. To appall is to overcome or confound by dread, dismay, shock, or horror: The suffering caused by the earthquake appalled him. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for frighten
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And all the little disfiguring hurts of life—they frighten me!

    The Bacillus of Beauty Harriet Stark
  • She had found the toad in the street, and picked it up to frighten little Prudy.

    Little Prudy Sophie May
  • I played more softly so as not to frighten the baby, and also to entice him to come nearer.

    Nobody's Boy Hector Malot
  • Colombo was a born fighter, and this news did not frighten him.

    Historic Boyhoods Rupert Sargent Holland
  • Bo or Boh, says Warton, was a fierce Gothic chief, whose name was used to frighten children.

British Dictionary definitions for frighten


verb (transitive)
to cause fear in; terrify; scare
to drive or force to go (away, off, out, in, etc) by making afraid
Derived Forms
frightened, adjective
frightening, adjective
frighteningly, adverb
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 frighten

1660s, from fright + -en (1). Related: Frightened; frightening. The earlier verb was simply fright (Old English fyrhtan) "to frighten."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with frighten


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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