verb (used with object)

to make afraid or fearful; throw into a fright; terrify; scare.
to drive (usually followed by away, off, etc.) by scaring: to frighten away pigeons from the roof.

verb (used without object)

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

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. 2019

Examples from the Web for frighteningly

Contemporary Examples of frighteningly

Historical Examples of frighteningly

  • Surprisingly, frighteningly light they were, as if filled with cotton.

  • He was walking in that frighteningly slow, measured way toward the village.


    Robert Shea

  • The backward vista down the years is too frighteningly long.

    The Belovd Vagabond

    William J. Locke

  • And instantly he remembered that Jill was very near the place where frighteningly impossible things were happening.

    Operation Terror

    William Fitzgerald Jenkins

  • The staff broke into a frighteningly off-key rendition of "Happy Birthday to You."

    The Great Gray Plague

    Raymond F. Jones

British Dictionary definitions for frighteningly


verb (tr)

to cause fear in; terrify; scare
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 frighteningly



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 frighteningly


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.