Meaning of “fear” in the English Dictionary

"fear" in British English

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fearnoun [ C or U ]

uk /fɪər/ us /fɪr/

B1 an unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen:

Trembling with fear, she handed over the money to the gunman.
Even when the waves grew big, the boy showed no (signs of) fear.
I have a fear of heights.
[ + that ] There are fears that the disease will spread to other countries.
be in fear of your life

to be frightened that you might be killed:

Lakisha sat inside, in fear of her life, until the police came.
be no fear of sth informal

to be no possibility that a particular thing will happen:

Greta knows the city well, so there's no fear of us getting lost (= we will not get lost).
for fear that/of sth

C2 because you are worried that a particular thing might happen:

They wouldn't let their cat outside for fear (that) it would get run over.
I didn't want to move for fear of waking her up.

More examples

  • Then he turned towards me and I was suddenly gripped by fear.
  • I finally mastered my fear of flying.
  • I was trembling with fear.
  • You could tell she wasn't lying from the fear in her voice.
  • Ten years later her worst fears were realized.


uk /fɪər/ us /fɪr/

B2 [ T; not continuous ] to be frightened of something or someone unpleasant:

What do you fear most?

B2 [ T; not continuous ] formal to be worried or frightened that something bad might happen or might have happened:

[ + (that) ] Police fear (that) the couple may have drowned.
formal It is feared (that) as many as two hundred passengers may have died in the crash.
We huddled together, fearing we might be killed.
[ + to infinitive ] Fearing to go herself, she sent her son to find out the news.
I fear formal mainly UK

used to give someone news of something bad that has happened or might happen:

[ + (that) ] I fear (that) she's already left.

More examples

  • He reassured people that law-abiding citizens would have nothing to fear from the enquiries.
  • It was feared that the break-up of the oil tanker would result in further pollution.
  • The police feared that the crowd were becoming disorderly and so they moved in with horses.
  • The committee kept the results of the survey to itself, fearing a bad public reaction.
  • The government fears that talking to terrorists might legitimize their violent actions.


Phrasal verb(s)

(Definition of “fear” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"fear" in American English

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fearnoun [ C/U ]

us /fɪər/

a strong emotion caused by great worry about something dangerous, painful, or unknown that is happening or might happen:

[ U ] Even when the boat was rocked by waves, the boy showed no fear.
[ U ] She stood very still for fear of (= because she was worried about) being noticed.
adjective us /ˈfɪər·ləs/

He was a tough, fearless soldier.


us /fɪr/

to be frightened about someone or something unpleasant:

[ I ] The cab driver was going so fast, I feared for our safety.

To fear is also to be worried or upset:

[ + that clause ] They fear that Congress may not allocate the money needed.


(Definition of “fear” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)