verb (used with object), ter·ri·fied, ter·ri·fy·ing.

to fill with terror or alarm; make greatly afraid.

Origin of terrify

1565–75; < Latin terrificāre, equivalent to terr(ēre) to frighten + -ificāre -ify
Related formster·ri·fi·er, nounter·ri·fy·ing·ly, adverbun·ter·ri·fied, adjectiveun·ter·ri·fy·ing, adjective

Synonym study

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for terrifying

scary, horrid, alarming, ghastly, horrible, awful, hideous, grim

Examples from the Web for terrifying

Contemporary Examples of terrifying

Historical Examples of terrifying

  • Who'd keep him till this hour, terrifying of us all into fits?

    The Channings

    Mrs. Henry Wood

  • He used to tell me about wonderful and terrifying adventures.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • The wall was high and the stones "jiggled" in a terrifying way.

    Four Girls and a Compact

    Annie Hamilton Donnell

  • And he had no idea from which direction the terrifying sound had come.

    Salvage in Space

    John Stewart Williamson

  • All the men placed themselves at the windows to hide the terrifying sight.

    The Flood

    Emile Zola

British Dictionary definitions for terrifying



causing great fear or dread; extremely frightening
Derived Formsterrifyingly, adverb


verb -fies, -fying or -fied

(tr) to inspire fear or dread in; frighten greatly
Derived Formsterrifier, noun

Word Origin for terrify

C16: from Latin terrificāre, from terrēre to alarm + facere to cause
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 terrifying



1570s, from Latin terrificare "to frighten," from terrificus "causing terror" (see terrific). Related: Terrified; terrifying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper