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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.
    • 1884, Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapter 29,[1]
      Well, we swarmed along down the river road, just carrying on like wildcats; and to make it more scary the sky was darking up, and the lightning beginning to wink and flitter, and the wind to shiver amongst the leaves.
    • 1982, Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, New York: Ivy Books, 1992, Chapter 2, p. 70,[2]
      [] How scary it is to know that everyone I love depends on me! I’m afraid I’ll do something wrong.”
  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, The Pioneers, New York: Charles Wiley, Volume 2, Chapter 5, p. 77,[3]
      “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. [] ” [the UK edition of the same year has scary (p. 262)][4]
    • 1867, John Greenleaf Whittier, “The Wreck of Rivermouth” in The Tent on the Beach, and Other Poems, Boston: Ticknor and Fields, p. 25,[5]
      “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 (issues 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, London: Jonathan Cape, 1970, Book 1, p. 10,[6]
      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]

Etymology 2[edit]

From dialectal English scare (scraggy).



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