Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Experiencing fear; frightened.
  • adjective Inclined to feel anxiety or apprehension; timid; nervous.
  • adjective Indicating anxiety or fear.
  • adjective Causing or capable of causing fear; frightening.
  • adjective Extreme, as in degree or extent. Used especially of something negative.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Feeling fear, dread, apprehension, or solicitude; afraid.
  • Timid; timorous; wanting courage.
  • Causing or such as to cause fear; impressing fear; frightful; dreadful; terrible; awful.
  • Showing fear; produced by fear; indicative of fear.
  • Synonyms Pusillanimous, cowardly, faint-hearted. Dreadful. Frightful, etc. (see awful); dire, direful, horrible, distressing, shocking.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Full of fear, apprehension, or alarm; afraid; frightened.
  • adjective Inclined to fear; easily frightened; without courage; timid.
  • adjective Indicating, or caused by, fear.
  • adjective Inspiring fear or awe; exciting apprehension or terror; terrible; frightful; dreadful.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Frightening.
  • adjective Frightened, filled with terror.
  • adjective Terrible.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective extremely distressing
  • adjective lacking courage; ignobly timid and faint-hearted
  • adjective causing fear or dread or terror
  • adjective experiencing or showing fear
  • adjective timid by nature or revealing timidity

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From fear +‎ -ful.

Examples

Comments

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  • Reading Blake's famous poem "The Tyger", with its reference to the animal's "fearful symmetry", I realized (among other things) that "fearful" is a contranym. In Blake's poem, it means "able to stir dread, fear" -- "awesome" in its more traditional meaning -- but of course today it more usually means "feeling fear, being afraid".

    October 28, 2015

  • Very true, rolig, it is an autantonym. Fear used to serve the opposite purpose, describing the frightener and not the frightenee in a sentence like "she fears me." I became aware of this from two pairs of cutthroat variants:

    scarecrow and fear-crow (a non-living protector of cornfields)
    scarebabe and fear-babe (a bogeyman creature who scares children)

    October 28, 2015