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See more synonyms for fearful on Thesaurus.com
  1. causing or apt to cause fear; frightening: a fearful apparition.
  2. feeling fear, dread, apprehension, or solicitude: fearful for his life; fearful lest he commit suicide.
  3. full of awe or reverence: fearful of the Lord.
  4. showing or caused by fear: fearful behavior.
  5. extreme in size, intensity, or badness: a fearful head cold; fearful poverty.
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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

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for fearfulness

perturbation, distress, fright, apprehension, alarm, affright, angst, trepidation, uneasiness, dread, threat, terror, panic, horror, worry, concern

Examples from the Web for fearfulness

Historical Examples of fearfulness

  • 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.


    Clement Bailhache

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

British Dictionary definitions for fearfulness


  1. having fear; afraid
  2. causing fear; frightening
  3. informal very unpleasant or annoyinga fearful cold
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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 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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper