fearful


fearful
fearful 1 Fearful, apprehensive, afraid are comparable when they mean inspired or moved by fear. In such use they are normally followed by of, that, or lest, afraid being never and fearful and apprehensive infrequently used attributively in this sense.
Fearful carries no suggestion of a formidable cause of fear; it often connotes timorousness, a predisposition to worry, or an active imagination
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the child is fearful of loud noises

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they were fearful that a storm would prevent their excursion

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fearful lest his prize should escape him— J. R. Green

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Apprehensive suggests a state of mind rather than a temperament and grounds for fear that at least seem reasonable. It always implies a presentiment or anticipation of evil or danger
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in July 1914 all civilized peoples were apprehensive of war

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had driven before them into Italy whole troops of . . . provincials, less apprehensive of servitude than of famine— Gibbon

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Afraid may or may not imply sufficient motivation of fears, but it typically connotes weakness or cowardice and regularly implies inhibition of action or utterance
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the trained reason is disinterested and fearless. It is not afraid of public opinion— Inge

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I was too afraid of her to shudder, too afraid of her to put my fingers to my ears— Conrad

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Analogous words: *timid, timorous: anxious, worried, concerned (see under CARE n): hesitant, reluctant, *disinclined
Antonyms: fearless: intrepid
Contrasted words: bold, audacious, *brave, courageous, dauntless, valiant, unafraid
2 Fearful, awful, dreadful, frightful, terrible, terrific, horrible, horrific, shocking, appalling are comparable in that all and especially their adverbs are used informally as intensives meaning little more than extreme (or extremely), but each term has a definite and distinct value when applied to a thing that stimulates an emotion in which fear or horror is in some degree an element.
Something is fearful which makes one afraid or alarmed. In literary or formal use the word usually implies a deep and painful emotion and a loss of courage in the face of possible or imminent danger
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all torment, trouble, wonder and amazement inhabits here: some heavenly power guide us out of this fearful country \—Shak.

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a sight too fearful for the feel of fear— Keats

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our fearful trip is done, the ship has weathered every rack— Whitman

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In less formal English fearful may not imply apprehension of danger, but it may at least imply that the thing so qualified is a cause of disquiet
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the fearful tenacity of a memory

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a fearfully distressing situation

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Something is awful which impresses one so profoundly that one acts or feels as if under a spell or in the grip of its influence; the word often implies an emotion such as reverential fear or an overpowering awareness of might, majesty, or sublimity
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and wring the awful scepter from his fist— Shak.

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God of our fathers . . . beneath whose awful Hand we hold dominion over palm and pineKipling

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men living among the glooms and broken lights of the primeval forest, hearing strange noises in the treetops when the thunder crashed, and awful voices in the wind— Buchan

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With somewhat weakened force awful may be applied to qualities or conditions which are unduly weighted with significance or which strike one forcibly as far above or beyond the normal
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no tribunal can approach such a question without a deep sense ... of the awful responsibility involved in its decision— John Marshall

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a moment of awful silence before the questions began— Deland

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suddenly, with the awful clarity and singleness of purpose of the innocent and intelligent, she believed in Captain Remson— McFee

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Something is dreadful from which one shrinks in shuddering fear or in loathing
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the dreadful prospect of another world war

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cancer is a dreadful disease

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she felt her two hands taken, and heard a kind voice. Could it be possible it belonged to the dreadful father of her husband?— Meredith

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1dreadful things should not be known to young people until they are old enough to face them with a certain poise— Russell

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In weakened use dreadful is applicable to something from which one shrinks as disagreeable or as unpleasant to contemplate or endure
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a dreadful necessity

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wouldn't it be dreadful to produce that effect on people— L. P. Smith

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Something is frightful which, for the moment at least, paralyzes one with fear or throws one into great alarm or consternation
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a frightful sound broke the quiet of the night

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a frightful tornado

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the Ghost of a Lady ... a scar on her forehead, and a bloody handkerchief at her breast, frightful to behold— Meredith

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Frightful is also often employed without direct implication of fright, but in such use it imputes to the thing so qualified a capacity for startling the observer (as by its enormity, outrageousness, or its shocking quality)
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a frightful disregard of decency

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a frightful scandal

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this frightful condition of internal strain and instability— Shaw

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the labor of sifting, combining, constructing, expunging, correcting, testing: this frightful toil is as much critical as creative— T. S. Eliot

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Something is terrible which causes or is capable of causing extreme and agitating fear or which both induces fright or alarm and prolongs and intensifies it
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millions of voices arose. The clamor became terrible, and confused the minds of all men— Anderson

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one of those terrible women produced now and then by the Roman stock, unsexed, implacable, filled with an insane lust of power— Buchan

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I have never read a more terrible exposure of human weakness—of universal human weakness—than the last great speech of Othello— T. S. Eliot

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a human being devoid of hope is the most terrible object in the world— Heiser

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When the word carries no implication of terrifying or of capacity for terrifying, it usually suggests that the thing so described is almost unendurable in its excess (as of force or power) or too painful to be borne without alleviation or mitigation
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knowledge ... is no longer thought to be a secret, precious, rather terrible possession— Benson

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an evil passion may give great physical and intellectual powers a terrible efficiency— Eliot

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Saint-Beuve believed that the truth is always terribleL. P. Smith

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Something is terrific which is fitted or intended to inspire terror (as by its size, appearance, or potency)
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eyes and hairy mane terrificMilton

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assume a terrific expression

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one little tool . . . transforms the spark [of electricity] from a form too brief and bright and terrific to be intelligible into one of the most tractable and lucid of the phenomena ... of Nature— Darrow

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Terrific may be preferred to terrible when there is an implication of release of stored-up energy, physical, emotional, or intellectual, and of its stunning effect
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a terrific explosion

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a terrific outburst of rage

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the most admired single phrase that Shakespeare ever wrote—Ripeness is all . . . derives a terrific and pure dramatic impact from its context—Dcry Lewis

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Something is horrible the sight of which induces not only fear or terror but also loathing and aversion; thus, a fearful precipice may not be horrible; in the practice of the ancient Greek dramatists, murder on the stage was avoided as horrible
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now that wars are between nations, no longer between governments or armies, they have become far more horribleInge

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Horrible, like the other words, may be used in a weaker sense; in such cases it seldom suggests horror, but it does suggests hatefulness or hideousness
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a horrible suspicion arose in his mind

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a horribly shrill voice

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a horrible taste

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Horrible emphasizes the effect produced on a person, horrific the possession of qualities or properties fitted or intended to produce that effect
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that horrific yarn [Stevenson's] "The Body-Snatcher"— Montague

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his yearning for the horrific, the revolting, the transcendent mystery of whatever is not "nice"— Times Lit. Sup.

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Something is shocking which startles or is capable of startling because it is contrary to one's expectations, one's standards of good taste, or one's moral sense
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likes to tell shocking stories

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find a shocking change in a friend's appearance

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the treatment should begin by encouraging him to utter freely even his most shocking thoughts— Russell

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Often in extended use shocking does not imply a capacity for startling so much as a blamable or reprehensible character
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it is shocking of me, but I have to laugh when people are pompous and absurd— Rose Macaulay

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a solecism of this kind . . . would have seemed a shocking thing to . . . so accurate a scholar— L. P. Smith

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Something is appalling which strikes one with dismay as well as with terror or horror
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her overthrow would have been the most appalling disaster the Western world had ever known— Henry Adams

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the defectives are appallingly prolific— Shaw

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Sometimes appalling comes close to amazing but then retains the notion of dismaying and carries a stronger suggestion of dumbfounding than of surprising
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his ap-palling quickness of mind

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he was squatting in some septic Indian village talking to unwashed old men, and eating the most appalling food— La Farge

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Analogous words: frightening, terrifying, alarming (see FRIGHTEN): *ghastly, gruesome, grisly, grim, macabre, lurid: *sinister, baleful, malign: sublime (see SPLENDID)

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • fearful — fearful, fearsome 1. Fearful means ‘full of fear; frightened, apprehensive’, usually with reference to something specific, and is normally followed by of or by a clause introduced by that or lest: • Eisenhower s official policy was to remain… …   Modern English usage

  • Fearful — Fear ful (f[=e]r f[.u]l), a. 1. Full of fear, apprehension, or alarm; afraid; frightened. [1913 Webster] Anxious amidst all their success, and fearful amidst all their power. Bp. Warburton. [1913 Webster] 2. Inclined to fear; easily frightened;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • fearful — [fir′fəl] adj. 1. causing fear; terrifying; dreadful 2. feeling fear; afraid 3. showing or resulting from fear [a fearful look] 4. Informal very bad, offensive, great, etc. [a fearful liar] SYN. AFRAID fearfulness n …   English World dictionary

  • fearful — [adj1] alarmed, apprehensive aflutter, afraid, aghast, agitated, anxious, chicken, chickenhearted*, diffident, discomposed, disquieted, disturbed, fainthearted, frightened, goosebumpy*, have cold feet*, hesitant, in a dither*, intimidated,… …   New thesaurus

  • fearful — index dire, formidable, ineffable, ominous, pending (imminent), portentous (ominous), recreant …   Law dictionary

  • fearful — mid 14c., “causing fear,” from FEAR (Cf. fear) + FUL (Cf. ful). Meaning “full of fear, timid” (now less common) also is from mid 14c. As a mere emphatic, from 1630s. Related: Fearfully; fearfulness …   Etymology dictionary

  • fearful — ► ADJECTIVE 1) showing or causing fear. 2) informal very great. DERIVATIVES fearfully adverb fearfulness noun …   English terms dictionary

  • fearful — [[t]fɪ͟ə(r)fʊl[/t]] 1) ADJ GRADED: usu v link ADJ, oft ADJ of n, ADJ that If you are fearful of something, you are afraid of it. [FORMAL] Bankers were fearful of a world banking crisis... I had often been very fearful, very angry, and very… …   English dictionary

  • fearful — adjective Date: 14th century 1. causing or likely to cause fear, fright, or alarm especially because of dangerous quality < a fearful storm > 2. a. full of fear < fearful for his safety > b. indicating or arising from fear < a fearful glance > c …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • fearful — fearfully, adv. fearfulness, n. /fear feuhl/, adj. 1. causing or apt to cause fear; frightening: a fearful apparition. 2. feeling fear, dread, apprehension, or solicitude: fearful for his life; fearful lest he commit suicide. 3. full of awe or… …   Universalium


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