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Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]

scare +‎ -y



scary (comparative scarier, superlative scariest)

  1. (now chiefly informal) Causing fear or anxiety
    Synonyms: frightening, hair-raising, petrifying, terrifying; see also Thesaurus:frightening
    The tiger's jaws were scary.
    She was hiding behind her pillow during the scary parts of the film.
  2. (informal) Uncannily striking or surprising.
    Linda changed her hair, and it’s scary how much she looks like her mother.
  3. (US, colloquial) Subject to sudden alarm; easily frightened.
    Synonyms: nervous, jumpy
    • 1823, James Fenimore Cooper, chapter 5, in The Pioneers[2], volume 2, New York: Charles Wiley, the UK edition of the same year has scary (p. 262)][3], page 77:
      “Whist! whist!” said Natty, in a low voice, on hearing a slight sound made by Elizabeth, in bending over the side of the canoe, in eager curiosity; “’tis a sceary animal, and it’s a far stroke for a spear. []
    • 1867, John Greenleaf Whittier, The Tent on the Beach, and Other Poems[4], Boston: Ticknor and Fields, The Wreck of Rivermouth, page 25:
      “She’s cursed,” said the skipper; “speak her fair:
      I’m scary always to see her shake
      Her wicked head, with its wild gray hair,
      And nose like a hawk, and eyes like a snake.”
    • 1916, Texas Department of Agriculture, “Bulletin”, in (Please provide the book title or journal name), numbers 47-57, page 150:
      And let us say to these interests that, until the Buy-It-Made-In-Texas movement co-operates with the farmers, we are going to be a little scary of the snare.
    • 1940, Richard Wright, Native Son[5], book 1, London: Jonathan Cape, published 1970, page 10:
      The two brothers stood over the dead rat [] .
      “Please, Bigger, take ’im out,” Vera begged.
      “Aw, don’t be so scary,” Buddy said.
Derived terms[edit]


scary (not comparable)

  1. (informal) To a scary extent; scarily.
    • 2010, Peter Corris, Torn Apart, Allen and Unwin, page 117:
      At 199 centimetres and a hundred kilos going up, he was scary big and he found work as a bouncer and enforcer[.]
    • 2020, S. Clarence Dodge, Beyond Blood: Inside the Mind of an Anesthesiologist[6], Xlibris Corporation:
      [T]he main reason I don't want to give her a GA is she's so scary fat!
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From dialectal English scare (scraggy).



  1. Barren land having only a thin coat of grass.