Alternative formsEdit


From Middle English ferful, fervol, equivalent to fear +‎ -ful.



fearful (comparative fearfuller or fearfuler or more fearful, superlative fearfullest or fearfulest or most fearful)

  1. Frightening.
  2. Tending to fear; timid.
    a fearful boy
  3. (dated) Terrible; shockingly bad.
    • 1859, Charles Dickens, The Haunted House:
      But every day after dinner, for an hour, we were all together, and then the Favourite and the rest of the Royal Hareem competed who should most beguile the leisure of the Serene Haroun reposing from the cares of State — which were generally, as in most affairs of State, of an arithmetical character, the Commander of the Faithful being a fearful boggler at a sum.
  4. (now rare) Frightened; filled with terror.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, III.4:
      Those two great champions did attonce pursew / The fearefull damzell with incessant payns []



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fearful (comparative more fearful, superlative most fearful)

  1. (dialect) Extremely; fearfully.
    • 2009, Juliette Shapiro, Mr. Darcy's Decision: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice:
      “He is fearful handsome, as you know,” she said remorsefully, “you cannot imagine, Georgiana, the joy when I first fell in love with him.”
    • 2014, Diana Wynne Jones, The Chrestomanci series:
      “It's a fearful strong charm needs dragon's blood,” he said plaintively.
    • 2014, Michael Brock, Eleanor Brock, Margot Asquith's Great War Diary 1914-1916:
      His Dardanelles expedition gave the Turk a fearful long start.

Further readingEdit