Happy Halloween! Today we’re looking at how the words fear, scare, and afraid are different.
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:
- a sudden fright,
- a time of worry
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
- 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.
So that’s a wrap for this batch of spooky words—fear, scare, and afraid—for Halloween! Can you think of any other spooky Halloween words related to fear?
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.