[ ter-er ]
/ ˈtɛr ər /


intense, sharp, overmastering fear: to be frantic with terror.
an instance or cause of intense fear or anxiety; quality of causing terror: to be a terror to evildoers.
any period of frightful violence or bloodshed likened to the Reign of Terror in France.
violence or threats of violence used for intimidation or coercion; terrorism.
Informal. a person or thing that is especially annoying or unpleasant.

Origin of terror

1325–75; < Latin, equivalent to terr(ēre) to frighten + -or -or1; replacing Middle English terrour < Anglo-French < Latin, as above
1 alarm, dismay, consternation. Terror, horror, panic, fright all imply extreme fear in the presence of danger or evil. Terror implies an intense fear that is somewhat prolonged and may refer to imagined or future dangers: frozen with terror. Horror implies a sense of shock at a danger that is also evil, and the danger may be to others rather than to oneself: to recoil in horror. Panic and fright both imply a sudden shock of fear. Fright is usually of short duration: a spasm of fright. Panic is uncontrolled and unreasoning fear, often groundless, that may be prolonged: The mob was in a panic.
Related formster·ror·ful, adjectiveter·ror·less, adjectivecoun·ter·ter·ror, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for terror

British Dictionary definitions for terror


/ (ˈtɛrə) /


great fear, panic, or dread
a person or thing that inspires great dread
informal a troublesome person or thing, esp a child
Derived Formsterrorful, adjectiveterrorless, adjective

Word Origin for terror

C14: from Old French terreur, from Latin terror, from terrēre to frighten; related to Greek trein to run away in terror
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 terror



late 14c., "great fear," from Old French terreur (14c.), from Latin terrorem (nominative terror) "great fear, dread," from terrere "fill with fear, frighten," from PIE root *tre- "shake" (see terrible). Meaning "quality of causing dread" is attested from 1520s; terror bombing first recorded 1941, with reference to German air attack on Rotterdam. Sense of "a person fancied as a source of terror" (often with deliberate exaggeration, as of a naughty child) is recorded from 1883. The Reign of Terror in French history (March 1793-July 1794) so called in English from 1801. Old English words for "terror" included broga and egesa.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with terror


see holy terror.

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