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Etymology 1[edit]

An alteration (first attested in the 1520s) of Middle English sker ("fear, dread") (which is itself first attested c. 1400). Middle English sker is a nominal derivative of the Middle English verb skerren, which gave rise to the Modern English verb "scare". See etymology of the verb below.


scare (plural scares)

  1. A minor fright.
    Johnny had a bad scare last night.
    • 2011 June 4, Phil McNulty, “England 2 - 2 Switzerland”, in BBC[1]:
      England were held to a draw after surviving a major scare against Switzerland as they were forced to come from two goals behind to earn a point in the Euro 2012 qualifier at Wembley.
  2. A cause of slight terror; something that inspires fear or dread.
    a food-poisoning scare
Related terms[edit]
See also[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

An alteration (first attested in the 1590s) of Middle English skerren (which is itself first attested c. 1200). Middle English skerren is derived from the Old Norse verb skirra ("to frighten; to shrink away from, shun; to prevent, avert"), which is related to the Old Norse noun skjarr ("timid, shy, afraid of") of unknown ultimate origin. Compare Scots skar ("wild, timid, shy").


scare (third-person singular simple present scares, present participle scaring, simple past and past participle scared)

  1. To frighten, terrify, startle, especially in a minor way.
    Did it scare you when I said "Boo!"?
    • c. 1851, Henry VI, Part 3 (III:i, v. 6-7), William Shakespeare
      That cannot be; the noise of thy crossbow / Will scare the herd, and so my shoot is lost.
    • 1995 The Langoliers
      (Laurel Stevenson) Would you please be quiet? You're scaring the little girl.
      (Craig Toomey) Scaring the little girl?! Scaring the little girl?! Lady!

Derived terms[edit]




From Latin scarus (also genus name Scarus), from Ancient Greek σκάρος (skáros).



scare m (plural scares)

  1. parrotfish

Further reading[edit]