[ frahyt-n ]
See synonyms for: frightenfrightenedfrighteningfrighteningly on

verb (used with object)
  1. to make afraid or fearful; throw into a fright; terrify; scare.

  2. to drive (usually followed by away, off, etc.) by scaring: to frighten away pigeons from the roof.

verb (used without object)
  1. to become frightened: a timid child who frightens easily.

Origin of frighten

First recorded in 1660–70; fright + -en1

synonym study For frighten

1. 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.

Other words for frighten

Other words from frighten

  • fright·en·a·ble, adjective
  • fright·en·er, noun
  • fright·en·ing·ly, adverb
  • non·fright·en·ing, adjective
  • non·fright·en·ing·ly, adverb
  • o·ver·fright·en, verb
  • un·fright·en·ing, adjective

Words Nearby frighten Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use frighten in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for frighten


/ (ˈfraɪtən) /

  1. to cause fear in; terrify; scare

  2. to drive or force to go (away, off, out, in, etc) by making afraid

Derived forms of frighten

  • 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

Other Idioms and Phrases with frighten


see scare out of one's wits.

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