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See more synonyms for frighten on Thesaurus.com
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.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to become frightened: a timid child who frightens easily.
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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


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

Related Words

disheartening, daunting, formidable, redoubtable, rebarbative

Examples from the Web for frightening

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British Dictionary definitions for frightening


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



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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with frightening


see scare out of one's wits.

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