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  1. thrown into a fright; afraid; scared; terrified: a frightened child cowering in the corner.
  2. afraid; fearful (usually followed by of): He has always been frightened of heights.

Origin of frightened

First recorded in 1715–25; frighten + -ed2
Related formsfright·ened·ly, adverbun·fright·ened, adjectivewell-fright·ened, adjective

Synonym study

2. See afraid.


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
Related formsfright·en·a·ble, adjectivefright·en·er, nounfright·en·ing·ly, adverbnon·fright·en·ing, adjectivenon·fright·en·ing·ly, adverbo·ver·fright·en, verbun·fright·en·ing, adjective

Synonyms for frighten

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Synonym study

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

Examples from the Web for frightened

Contemporary Examples of frightened

Historical Examples of frightened

  • De Lord A'mighty 'd come and frightened 'em all out of de waters.

  • When the storm came, she was frightened, and said, 'It is a retribution.'


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • He was repeating like a frightened child, "For God's sake, Hal, don't die—don't die."

  • I was frightened, to be sure, yet I knew scarcely what to do.

    Biography of a Slave

    Charles Thompson

  • There's really nothing at all to be frightened about, my dear child.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

British Dictionary definitions for frightened


verb (tr)
  1. to cause fear in; terrify; scare
  2. to drive or force to go (away, off, out, in, etc) by making afraid
Derived Formsfrightened, adjectivefrightening, adjectivefrighteningly, 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

Word Origin and History for frightened



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

Idioms and Phrases with frightened


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.