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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English ferful, fervol, equivalent to fear +‎ -ful.



fearful (comparative fearfuller or fearfuler or more fearful, superlative fearfullest or fearfulest or most fearful)

  1. Frightening; causing fear.
    • c. 1588–1593 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act V, scene ii]:
      Sirs, stop their mouths, let them not speak to me,
      But let them hear what fearful words I utter.
    • 1981, William Irwin Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, London: Rider/Hutchinson & Co., page 184:
      In the later Hebrew midrash Lilith is presented as the woman who knows how to recite the fearful name of God to work calamity; that this little girl cries out the fearful name of the sun god and thereby causes an earthquake would indicate that this girl is linked in the structure of the myth with Lilith.
  2. Tending to fear; timid.
    a fearful boy
  3. (dated) Terrible; shockingly bad.
    • 1859, Charles Dickens, The Haunted House:
      But every day after dinner, for an hour, we were all together, and then the Favourite and the rest of the Royal Hareem competed who should most beguile the leisure of the Serene Haroun reposing from the cares of State — which were generally, as in most affairs of State, of an arithmetical character, the Commander of the Faithful being a fearful boggler at a sum.
  4. (now rare) Frightened; filled with terror.



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


fearful (comparative more fearful, superlative most fearful)

  1. (dialect) Extremely; fearfully.
    • 2009, Juliette Shapiro, Mr. Darcy's Decision: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice:
      “He is fearful handsome, as you know,” she said remorsefully, “you cannot imagine, Georgiana, the joy when I first fell in love with him.”
    • 2014, Diana Wynne Jones, The Chrestomanci series:
      “It's a fearful strong charm needs dragon's blood,” he said plaintively.
    • 2014, Michael Brock, Eleanor Brock, Margot Asquith's Great War Diary 1914-1916:
      His Dardanelles expedition gave the Turk a fearful long start.


  1. ^ Jespersen, Otto (1909) A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles (Sammlung germanischer Elementar- und Handbücher; 9)‎[1], volume I: Sounds and Spellings, London: George Allen & Unwin, published 1961, § 4.36, page 124.

Further reading[edit]