AskDefine | Define scare

Dictionary Definition



1 sudden mass fear and anxiety over anticipated events; "panic in the stock market"; "a war scare"; "a bomb scare led them to evacuate the building" [syn: panic]
2 a sudden attack of fear [syn: panic attack]


1 cause fear in; "The stranger who hangs around the building frightens me" [syn: frighten, fright, affright]
2 cause to lose courage; "dashed by the refusal" [syn: daunt, dash, scare off, pall, frighten off, scare away, frighten away]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A minor fright
    Johnny had a bad scare last night.
  2. A cause of slight terror; something that inspires fear or dread.
    JM is a scare to the capitalists of this country.


Derived terms

Related terms


minor fright
  • Finnish: säikähdys
  • Japanese: 怯え, 恐怖
  • Russian: испуг, страх
something that inspires fear
  • Finnish: pelätti, kauhu
  • Japanese: 恐怖, 脅威
  • Russian: пугало, жупел

See also


  1. To frighten, terrify, especially in a minor way.
    Did that scare you when I said "Boo!"?



to frighten
  • Arabic:
  • CJK Characters:
  • Chinese: 使駭怕, 使骇怕 (shǐ hài pà)
  • Dutch: schrikken
  • Finnish: pelästyttää, säikäyttää
  • French: effrayer
  • German: erschrecken
  • Italian: spaventare
  • Japanese: qualifier to terrify 威かす; qualifier to surprise 驚かす
  • Korean: 놀라게 하다 (nollage hada)
  • Latin: terrere
  • Portuguese: assustar
  • Russian: пугать , испугать , напугать
  • Slovene: prestrašiti
  • Spanish: asustar, atemorizar, espantar
  • Swedish: skrämma




Latin scarus (also genus name Scarus), from Greek σκάρος



Extensive Definition

Fear is an emotional response to tangible and realistic dangers. Fear should be distinguished from anxiety, an emotion that often arises out of proportion to the actual threat or danger involved, and can be subjectively experienced without any specific attention to the threatening object.
Most fear is usually connected to pain (e.g., some fear heights because if they fall, they may suffer severe injury or even die upon landing). Behavioral theorists, like Watson and Ekman, have suggested that fear is one of several very basic emotions (e.g., joy and anger). Fear is a survival mechanism, and usually occurs in response to a specific negative stimulus.


The Old English term fǣr meant not the emotion engendered by a calamity or disaster but rather the event itself. The first recorded usage of the term "fear" with the sense of the “emotion of fear” is found in a medieval work written in Middle English and composed around 1290. The most probable explanation for the change in the meaning of the word fear is the existence in Old English of the related verb fǣran, which meant “to terrify, take by surprise.”


Serious fear is a response to some formidable impending peril, while trifling fear arises from confrontation with inconsequential danger.
Fear can be described by different terms in accordance with its relative degrees. Personal fear varies extremely in degree from mild caution to extreme phobia and paranoia. Fear is related to a number of emotional states including worry, anxiety, terror, fright, paranoia, horror, panic (social and personal), persecution complex and dread.
Fears may be a factor within a larger social network, wherein personal fears are synergetically compounded as mass hysteria.
  • Paranoia is a term used to describe a psychosis of fear, described as a heightened perception of being persecuted, false or otherwise. This degree of fear often indicates that one has changed their normal behavior in radical ways, and may have become extremely compulsive. Sometimes, the result of extreme paranoia is a phobia.
  • Distrust in the context of interpersonal fear, is sometimes explained as the inward feeling of caution, usually focused towards a person, representing an unwillingness to trust in someone else. Distrust is not a lack of faith or belief in someone, but a feeling of warning towards someone or something questionable or unknown. For example, one may "distrust" a stranger who acts in a way that is perceived as "odd." Likewise one may "distrust" the safety of a rusty old bridge across a 100 ft drop.
  • Terror refers to a pronounced state of fear - which usually occurs before the state of horror - when someone becomes overwhelmed with a sense of immediate danger. Also, it can be caused by perceiving the (possibly extreme) phobia. As a consequence, terror overwhelms the person to the point of making irrational choices and non-typical behavior.
Fear can also affect the subconscious and unconscious mind, most notably through nightmares.
Fear can also be imagined, and the side effects can also be imagined.


Although fear is an innate response, objects of fear can be learned. This has been studied in psychology as fear conditioning, beginning with Watson's Little Albert experiment in 1920. In this study, an 11-month-old boy was conditioned to fear a white rat in the laboratory. In the real world, fear may also be acquired by a traumatic accident. For example, if a child falls into a well and struggles to get out, he or she may develop a fear of wells, enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) or of water (aquaphobia).
Researchers have found that certain fears (e.g. animals, heights) are much more common than others (e.g. flowers, clouds). They are also much easier to induce in the laboratory. This phenomenon has been called preparedness. Physiologically, the fear response is linked to activity in the amygdala of the limbic system.
The experience of fear may also be influenced by social norms and values. In the early 20th century, many people feared polio, a disease which cripples the body part it affects, leaving the body part immobilized for the rest of one's life.


Further reading

  • Joanna Bourke (2005), Fear: a cultural history, Virago
  • Corey Robin (2004), Fear: the history of a political idea, Oxford University Press
  • Duenwald, Mary. "The Psychology of ...Facial Expressions" Discovery Magazine Vol. 26 NO. 1
  • Krishnamurti, J. (1995), On Fear, Harper Collins, ISBN 0-06-251014-2

External links

scare in Arabic: خوف
scare in Bulgarian: Страх
scare in Catalan: Por
scare in Czech: Strach
scare in Welsh: Ofn
scare in German: Furcht
scare in Estonian: Hirm
scare in Modern Greek (1453-): Φόβος
scare in Spanish: Miedo
scare in Esperanto: Timo
scare in Persian: ترس
scare in French: Peur
scare in Galician: Medo
scare in Croatian: Strah
scare in Ido: Pavoro
scare in Inuktitut: ᐃᓂᖅᑐᐃᒍᑎ/iniqtuiguti
scare in Icelandic: Ótti
scare in Italian: Paura
scare in Hebrew: פחד
scare in Lithuanian: Baimė
scare in Dutch: Angst
scare in Japanese: 恐怖
scare in Norwegian: Frykt
scare in Polish: Strach
scare in Portuguese: Medo
scare in Romanian: Frică
scare in Quechua: Manchakuy
scare in Russian: Страх
scare in Sicilian: Scantu
scare in Simple English: Fear
scare in Slovak: Strach
scare in Serbian: Страх
scare in Finnish: Pelko
scare in Swedish: Rädsla
scare in Ukrainian: Страх
scare in Yiddish: שרעק
scare in Samogitian: Baimės
scare in Chinese: 敬畏

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abject fear, affright, alarm, awe, blue funk, bluff off, collect, come by, consternation, cow, cowardice, curdle the blood, daunt, dig up, dismay, disquiet, dread, fear, find, freeze, fright, frighten, frighten off, funk, gather, get, horrification, horrify, horripilate, horror, intimidate, make one tremble, menace, panic, panic fear, paralyze, petrify, phobia, put to flight, raise, raise apprehensions, scare away, scare up, scrape together, scrape up, shake, shake up, shock, spook, stagger, stampede, start, startle, strike terror into, surprise, terrify, terror, terrorize, threaten, unholy dread, unman, unnerve, unstring
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