fearful, fearsome
1. Fearful means ‘full of fear; frightened, apprehensive’, usually with reference to something specific, and is normally followed by of or by a clause introduced by that or lest:

• Eisenhower's official policy was to remain aloof, fearful that any direct intervention would make Castro a martyr —N. Miller, 1989

• He became very fearful of cars, buses and stairs, eventually shutting himself in his room, with the curtains drawn, for 14 months —Guardian, 1989

• She stood outside looking up at a creamy moon, fearful lest some bat might fly into her hair —Julian Barnes, 1990.

It is also used with reference to feelings and circumstances that are characterized by great fear:

• His mother had brought him up to hold priests in fearful reverence —G. McCaughrean, 1987

and in the weakened meaning ‘unpleasant’, with reference to things and situations:

• In fact it had been very hardbought, some of the winnings, taking fearful tolls of nerve, straining every atom of him —Nicolas Freeling, 1972

• When I approached the lower door I heard some fearful screams, groans and noises of struggling —Northern Echo, 2007.

2. Fearsome means ‘appalling or frightening, especially in appearance’:

• Ichiro continued to regard me with the most fearsome look —Kazuo Ishiguro, 1986

• Rhododendrons…have become a fearsome forest weed, preventing the growth of other plants —Outdoor Action, 1989

• Why do swans have this fearsome reputation? A friend who had a flock of them on his lake says they're gentle creatures —Daily Mail, 2005.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Fearsome — Fear some (f[=e]r s[u^]m) a. 1. Frightful; causing fear. [Scotch] This fearsome wind. Sir W. Scott [1913 Webster] 2. Easily frightened; timid; timorous. A silly fearsome thing. B. Taylor [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • fearsome — index dangerous, sinister Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • fearsome — 1768, from FEAR (Cf. fear) + SOME (Cf. some). Related: Fearsomely; fearsomeness …   Etymology dictionary

  • fearsome — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ frightening, especially in appearance. DERIVATIVES fearsomely adverb …   English terms dictionary

  • fearsome — [fir′səm] adj. 1. causing fear; dreadful; horrible 2. Now Rare frightened; timid fearsomely adv. fearsomeness n …   English World dictionary

  • fearsome — [[t]fɪ͟ə(r)səm[/t]] ADJ GRADED Fearsome is used to describe things that are frightening, for example because of their large size or extreme nature. He had developed a fearsome reputation for intimidating people. ...a fearsome array of weapons.… …   English dictionary

  • fearsome — adjective Date: 1768 1. a. causing fear < a fearsome monster > b. intense, extreme < fearsome determination > 2. timid, timorous • fearsomely adverb • fearsomeness …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • fearsome — fearsomely, adv. fearsomeness, n. /fear seuhm/, adj. 1. causing fear: a fearsome noise. 2. causing awe or respect: a fearsome self confidence. 3. afraid; timid. [1760 70; FEAR + SOME1] * * * …   Universalium

  • fearsome — fear•some [[t]ˈfɪər səm[/t]] adj. 1) causing fear 2) afraid; timid: a tiny, fearsome mouse[/ex] 3) inspiring awe or respect: a fearsome intelligence[/ex] • Etymology: 1760–70 fear′some•ly, adv. fear′some•ness, n …   From formal English to slang

  • fearsome — adj. Fearsome is used with these nouns: ↑adversary, ↑beast, ↑reputation …   Collocations dictionary

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