Spooky Words for Halloween: Fear, Scare, & Afraid

Happy Halloween!

Today we’re looking at how the words “fear,” “scare,” and “afraid” are different.

Halloween Word Wednesday

So what is “fear” exactly? When I looked at the words I wanted to discuss for this Word Wednesday, each frequently used another to define itself.

Fear as a noun is an emotion, an unpleasant or distressing one, caused by anticipation or awareness of impending danger, evil, or pain. It doesn’t matter if the thing feared is real or imagined…the distress is there.

Now that we have a clear meaning for fear, onward to the verb forms!


If you scare someone, you fill them with fear or terror, usually suddenly. Alarm is a good synonym here—it rattles you awake suddenly. (At least mine does. I’m not a morning person in the least.)

Scare can also be a noun:

Think of a visit to a doctor’s office and the seemingly interminable wait for test results—this can be a scare.

  • A widespread state of alarm, where a population panics


To be afraid is to feel or be filled with one of these emotions

  • fear,
  • regret or unhappiness, or
  • unwillingness or dislike

Treat afraid as a more general sense rather than one specific instance.

In a powerful safety video one of my friends found, they explained the word afraid to help people keep their senses alert for the things that could go wrong instead of just proceeding through their work obliviously.


Fear as a verb can be used with or without an object.

It can mean

  • to have fear (of something) or to be afraid—see what I mean about circular reasoning?
  • to be in awe of something, or
  • to feel uneasy about something.

Fear is a lot closer to afraid than scared is to either of them.

Can you think of any other spooky Halloween words related to fear?

Related Posts:

Spooky, Frightful, & Scary

Halloween is Here Again

Halloween Drama: Taking Candy From a Baby

Learning new words and being able to find the word that means exactly what the story needs can mean the difference between a mediocre story and a brilliant one.

Halloween Word Wednesday: Spooky, Frightful, and Scary

Happy Halloween everyone!

It’s my favorite time of the year. Our neighborhood is having a block party, so I’m putting together a craft table. My pumpkin garland still needs to hang straight, though.

There’s so much candy, so do come by. My teal pumpkin treats are all set: I got Halloween pencils, pumpkin erasers, and glow sticks. If you don’t know about teal pumpkins, they are placed in your trick-or-treat area to indicate that you have non-food treats for those trick-or-treaters with food allergies. Here’s my teal pumpkin:

I’ll be in costume, too. This year I’m thinking “Dark Fairy.” So don’t come to my door expecting candy if you’re not dressed up.

Learning new words and being able to find the word that means exactly what the story needs can mean the difference between a mediocre story and a brilliant one.

On Wednesdays we will identify an unusual word, provide its definition, and discuss its application or its impact.

Today’s Word Wednesday is a bundle of Halloween fun. I decided to look at the origins of “spooky” and “frightful.”

Let’s start with “spooky”:

A spook is a ghost, so this word means “like a ghost” or eerie or scary. Horses can also be spooked, making them nervous or skittish.

Frightful” has a few different meanings:

1) something that’s dreadful, terrible, or alarming
Fright is a sudden and extreme fear. It’s not a general word. When I was writing “Sea Dreams,” I used “fright” and then went back to change it to “anxiety,” since the character felt a long-lasting fear.
2) horrible, shocking, or revolting
We hear about “frightful” messes and such in 19th century gothic novels. To my ear it sounds very proper, but a “revolting mess” sounds worse than a “frightful” one.
3) unpleasant or disagreeable
This last use is a softer application of the second definition.

And what about “scary”? I was interested to discover that this word has two meanings:

1) causing fright or alarm
This is what I expected. However, “scary” can also mean
2) easily frightened or timid
I have never seen “scary” used this way, like “my scary toddler doesn’t like going upstairs in the dark.”

What other creepy Halloween words do you like to use this time of year?