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From Middle English fright, furht, from Old English fryhtu, fyrhto (fright, fear, dread, trembling, horrible sight), from Proto-Germanic *furhtį̄ (fear), from Proto-Indo-European *perg- (to frighten; fear).

Cognate with Scots fricht (fright), Old Frisian fruchte (fright), Low German frucht (fright), Middle Dutch vrucht, German Furcht (fear, fright), Danish frygt (fear), Swedish fruktan (fear, fright, dread), Gothic 𐍆𐌰𐌿𐍂𐌷𐍄𐌴𐌹 (faurhtei, fear, horror, fright). Albanian frikë (fear, fright, dread, danger) and Romanian frică (fear, fright, dread) are also cognates, although probably influenced by an early Germanic variant.


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fright (countable and uncountable, plural frights)

  1. A state of terror excited by the sudden appearance of danger; sudden and violent fear, usually of short duration; a sudden alarm.
    • 1994, Stephen Fry, chapter 2, in The Hippopotamus:
      With a bolt of fright he remembered that there was no bathroom in the Hobhouse Room. He leapt along the corridor in a panic, stopping by the long-case clock at the end where he flattened himself against the wall.
  2. Anything strange, ugly or shocking, producing a feeling of alarm or aversion.
    • 1819, Lord Byron, Don Juan, I:
      Her maids were old, and if she took a new one,
      You might be sure she was a perfect fright;
      She did this during even her husband's life
      I recommend as much to every wife.

Derived terms[edit]



fright (third-person singular simple present frights, present participle frighting, simple past and past participle frighted)

  1. (archaic, transitive) To frighten.
    • William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
      Are not you he [] That frights the maidens of the villagery []  ?