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 formsfear·ful·ly, adverbfear·ful·ness, nouno·ver·fear·ful, adjectiveo·ver·fear·ful·ly, adverbo·ver·fear·ful·ness, nounpre·fear·ful, adjectivepre·fear·ful·ly, adverbun·fear·ful, adjectiveun·fear·ful·ly, adverbun·fear·ful·ness, noun
Can be confusedfearful fearsome

Synonyms for fearful

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for fearfully

Contemporary Examples of fearfully

Historical Examples of fearfully

  • "It's fearfully hard work, of course," he commented, when she had finished.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • They were fearfully bad, and my face must have shown the impression they made.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • All too fearfully I divined their preposterous significance.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Yea, he would curse them bitterly, and swore most fearfully what he would do to them when he found them.


    James Anthony Froude

  • Reluctantly, fearfully, distrustfully, Glory paid her guinea and left her address.

    The Christian

    Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for fearfully



in a fearful manner
(intensifier)you're fearfully kind



having fear; afraid
causing fear; frightening
informal very unpleasant or annoyinga fearful cold
Derived Formsfearfulness, 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

Word Origin and History for fearfully



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