From the second edition (1989):
fear, n.1
(fɪə(r)) Forms: 1 fǽr, fér, 3–6 fere, 3 fer, 4–5 feer(e, 6 Sc. feir, 5–7 feare, 7– fear. Also 2, 5 fore. [OE. fǽr (the rare southern ME. fore may represent a variant *fár; cf. swár = swǽr) str. masc., sudden calamity, danger, corresponds to OS. fâr ambush (MDu. vaer), and except for the difference of declension to MDu. vâre fem. fear (cf. mod.Du. gevaar neut. danger), OHG. fâra fem. ambush, stratagem, danger (MHG. vâre; cf. MHG. gevæ̂re fem. and neut., mod.G. gefahr fem.), ON. fár neut. misfortune, plague; the n. (:—OTeut. *fæ̂ro-z, fæ̂ro(m, fæ̂râ) is not recorded in Goth., which however has the derivative fêrja lier in wait.
The base fæ̂r- (:—pre-Teut. pēr-) is prob. one of the ablaut forms of the Aryan root per to go through (see fare v.1), but the genesis of the sense is not clear; the current comparison with Gr. πεῖρα, L. perīculum trial, attempt, risk, seems to be misleading.]


1. In OE.: A sudden and terrible event; peril.

Beowulf 1068 Hie se fær beeat. a1000 Cædmon's Exod. 452 (Gr.) Wæron Eypte eft oncyrde, fluon forhtiende, fær oneton.


2. a. The emotion of pain or uneasiness caused by the sense of impending danger, or by the prospect of some possible evil.
Now the general term for all degrees of the emotion; in early use applied to its more violent extremes, now denoted by alarm, terror, fright, dread. In 14th c. sometimes pleonastically dread and fear.

c1175 Lamb. Hom. 97 Hi‥wið-utan fore godes blisse bodedan. c1290 S. Eng. Leg. I. 82/15 He ne bi-lefte for no fere. c1340 Cursor M. 2914 (Trin.) Into þe felde he drouȝe for feer. 1398 Trevisa Barth. De P.R. xii. xxxiv. (1495) 434 The ostryche maye not see the horse wythout fere. c1400 Mandeville (Roxb.) xxxi. 140 Fals hert myght noȝt bere þe grete drede and fere þat þai had. 1490 Caxton Eneydos xv. 61 O Jupyter, hast thou‥determyned‥to gyue vs tremoure and feere. 1562 J. Heywood Prov. & Epigr. (1867) 9 Feare may force a man to cast beyonde the moone. 1588 A. King tr. Canisius' Catech. 17 He‥may‥without al feir say [etc.]. 1611 Bible Ex. xv. 16 Feare and dread shall fall vpon them. 1671 Milton P.R. iii. 206 Where no hope is left, is left no fear. 1725 Watts Logic i. vi. §12 We are in Danger of it [Passion], it raises our fear. 1776 Gibbon Decl. & F. I. 303 Fear has been the original parent of superstition. 1809–10 Coleridge Friend (1865) 107 A contract‥might be entered into through fear. 1875 Manning Mission H. Ghost x. 265 Fear without fortitude degenerates into timidity.


b. personified.

1590 Spenser F.Q. iii. xii. 12 Next him was Feare, all arm'd from top to toe. a1650 May Old Couple ii. (1658) 13 Then fear steps in, and tells me [etc.]. 1747 Collins Ode Passions 17 First Fear his hand‥Amid the chords bewilder'd laid. 1817 Coleridge Poems 69 Pale Fear Haunted by ghastlier shapings.


c. An instance of the emotion; a particular apprehension of some future evil.

a1616 Beaum. & Fl. Knt. of Malta ii. v, Tender, and full of fears, our blushing sex is. 1701 De Foe True-born Eng. 2 With needless Fears the‥Nation fill. 1874 Morley Compromise (1886) 36 The old hopes have grown pale, the old fears dim. 1879 M. E. Braddon Clov. Foot ix, You need have no such fear.


d. A state of alarm or dread. Chiefly in phrase in fear; also, †to put in (a) fear, to fall into fear.

1297 R. Glouc. (1724) 402 Þo þe Saracens yt yseye, hii were somdel in fere. 1535 Coverdale Esther xiv. 19 Delyuer me out of my feare. 1581 G. Pettie Guazzo's Civ. Conv. iii. (1586) 159b, They‥make it a sport to put their children in feare. 1623 Bingham Xenophon 13 They, and Menon himselfe, were put in a feare. 1653 Holcroft Procopius i. 17 The Barbarians‥fell into feare and disorder. 1691 tr. Emilianne's Frauds Romish Monks 390 She continued‥in deadly fears. 1736 Butler Anal. i. iii, This state of fear being itself often a very considerable punishment. 1771 Mrs. Griffiths tr. Viaud's Shipwreck 200, I set out forthwith‥in fear and trembling.


3. This emotion viewed with regard to an object; the state of fearing (something). a. Apprehension or dread of something that will or may happen in the future. Const. of, to with inf.; also with clause introduced by that or lest.

a1300 Body & Soul 172 in Map's Poems [MS. Laud 108, fol. 200] Ne thorte us have friȝt ne fer that God ne wolde his blisse us sent. 1538 Starkey England i. ii. 43 He‥for Fere of daungerys runnyth into a relygyous house. 1568 Grafton Chron. II. 355 They are ever in feare to lose that they have. 1647 Chas. I Let. in Antiquary I. 97 The feare of your being brought within the power of the army. 1848 Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. 459 The‥king might‥without any fear of opposition from England, proceed to annex Brabant. 1884 Manch. Exam. 20 May 5/2 The fears of a general crisis are passing away.


b. esp. in phrase for fear, where in mod. use the sense of the n. is often weakened; thus for fear of = ‘in order to avoid or prevent’; for fear that or lest (also colloq. with ellipsis of the conj.) = ‘lest’.
When fear in these locutions is intended to have its full sense, through or from is now usually substituted for for.

c1340 Cursor M. 1908 (Trin.) But ȝitt bode he seuen dayes in rest For fere lest any damnyng brest. c1489 Caxton Sonnes of Aymon xxii. 481 Wene ye that I shall do that ye saye for fere of deth? 1583 Stubbes Anat. Abus. ii. (1882) 95 To depart‥In the time of plague‥for feare of infection. 1597 Montgomerie Cherrie & Slae 360, I was affrayd to mount sa hich, For feir to get ane fall. 1600 Holland Livy xlix. Epit. (1609) 1238 To depart out of those quarters‥for feare to bee murdered. 1678 Trial of Ireland, Pickering, & Grove in Howell St. Trials (1816) VII. 95 Grove would have had the bullets to be champt, for fear that [etc.]. 1693 Dryden Juvenal x. 534 Must we not Wish, for fear of wishing Ill? 1749 Fielding Tom Jones xii. xi, It is good to be charitable to those sort of people, for fear what may happen. 1791 ‘G. Gambado’ Ann. Horsem. ix. (1809) 104, I, for fear of the worst, took to my heels.


c. Apprehensive feeling towards anything regarded as a source of danger, or towards a person regarded as able to inflict injury or punishment.

1340–70 Alex. & Dind. 346 We ne haue fere of no fon þat faren wiþ-oute. 1382 Wyclif Gen. ix. 2 And ȝoure feer‥be vpon alle the beestis of erthe. c1420 Chron. Vilod. 3295 For þe grete fore [rime-word euermore] Þe whyche he had þo þere of þis virgyn Seynt Ede. c1489 Caxton Sonnes of Aymon iii. 80 But he could do none otherwyse, for feere of Charlemayn. 1600 J. Pory tr. Leo's Africa ii. 9 He stood in feare of the people of Tunis. 1841 Lane Arab. Nts. I. 92, I have an enemy of whom I am in fear.


d. A mingled feeling of dread and reverence towards God (formerly also, towards any rightful authority).
Wyclif has always drede in this sense. The distinction between servile and filial fear (see quot. 1860), in Lat. timor servilis, filialis, is stated (as already generally current) by Thomas Aquinas, Summa ii. ii. xix.

c1400 Solomon's Bk. Wisdom 42 Wite þi douttren with eye wel, þat þai haue of þe fere. 1535 Coverdale Ecclus. ii. 6 Holde fast his feare, and growe therin. 1548–9 (Mar.) Bk. Com. Prayer 75 A perpetuall feare‥of thy holy name. 1599 Shakes. Much Ado ii. iii. 200 He‥vndertakes them with a most Christian-like feare. 1607 Hieron Wks. I. 130 There is a‥slauish feare, and a sonlike feare. 1611 Bible Ps. cxi. 10 The feare of the Lord is the beginning of wise~dome. 1729 Butler Serm. Wks. 1874 II. 82 He is‥under no other force‥than the fear of God. 1851 Ruskin Mod. Paint. II. iii. i. xiv. §27 That sacred dread of all offence to him, which is called the Fear of God. 1860 Pusey Min. Proph. 598 Fear is twofold; servile, whereby punishment, not fault, is dreaded; filial, by which fault is feared. 1875 Manning Mission H. Ghost xi. 295 Holy fear is the beginning of the obedience of the Children of God.


e. Phrases: to put (occas. rub) the fear of God into, to terrify (into submission); without fear or favour, impartially.

1890 Macm. Mag. Jan. 230/2 Rub the fear of God into the people. 1905 H. G. Wells Let. 13 Aug. in D. L. Moore E. Nesbit (1933) xii. 214 Bland might like to come over when Clodd is here, and help me put the fear of God into him. 1906 Independent Rev. X. 110 He [sc. Dr. Johnson] judged authors as if they were criminals in the dock, answerable for every infraction of the rules and regulations laid down by the laws of art, which it was his business to administer without fear or favour. 1930 A. Bennett Imperial Palace 479 When she's my wife I'll put the fear of God into her. 1956 A. Wilson Anglo-Saxon Att. i. i. 4 If you have grievances‥send your problems to John Middleton. He will investigate your case without fear or favour. 1959 Punch 16 Dec. 614/3 If I may say so without fear or favour. 1960 ‘J. Wyndham’ Trouble with Lichen iii. ix. 119 We put the fear of God into the girls over that kind of thing.


4. Solicitude, anxiety for the safety of a person or thing. Also in phrase (for, in) fear of one's life.

1490 Caxton Eneydos xlix. 142 He lept in to one of the shippes‥for grete feer of his lyffe. 1580 Sidney Arcadia (1622) 68 Then care, not feare, or feare, not for themselues, altered‥the countenances of the‥Louers. 1611 Bible 2 Macc. xv. 18 The‥principal feare, was for the holy Temple. 1862 Sat. Rev. XIV. 569/2 At a later period, when wandering, in fear of his life, over Italy [etc.].


5. In various objective senses. a. Ground or reason for alarm. Chiefly in phrase (there is) no fear; now often used as an exclamation. The usual sense of no fear is now ‘not likely’, ‘certainly not’.

1535 Coverdale Ps. lii[i]. 5 They are afrayed, where no feare is. 1634 Massinger Very Woman iii. i, Give him but sage and butter‥And there's no fear. 1699 W. Hacke Collect. Orig. Voy. iv. 7 No fear but they might get 2 or 3 thousand Dollards per man. 1800 [see pho, phoh int.]. 1817 A. Constable Let. 25 Dec. in J. Constable's Corr. (1962) 167 Being very clean, and good temper'd, she hop'd there was no fear of her suiting you. 1861 Times 25 May, ‘Is there any fear, Captain?’ 1887 Money Dutch Maiden (1888) 338 He will never go hence‥no fear. 1930 A. Bennett Imperial Palace xii. 73, I invite him to dinner! And in his own hotel! No fear! 1966 J. B. Priestley Salt is Leaving xii. 172 No fear! I wouldn't be found dead in Birkden.


b. Intimidation. Obs.

1426 in Surtees Misc. (1890) 8 Witht oute distresse or fere done to him.


c. Capability of inspiring fear, formidableness.

1601 Shakes. Jul. C. ii. i. 190 There is no feare in him; let him not dye. 1654 Goddard in Introd. Burton's Diary (1828) I. 46 Our wars will have much more reputation and fear, when‥a whole nation will not consent to a war lightly.


d. An object of fear; something that is, or is to be, feared. In the Bible occas. by a Hebraism, the object of (a person's) religious reverence, the God of (his) worship.

1535 Coverdale Prov. x. 29 The waye of the Lorde‥is a feare for wicked doers. 1561 J. Daus tr. Bullinger on Apoc. (1573) 204 Therfore let God be our feare. 1607 Heywood Woman killed Wks. 1874 II. 100 The rumor of this feare stretcht to my eares. 1611 Bible Gen. xxxi. 53 Iacob sware by the feare of his father Isaac. —— Prov. i. 26, I wil mocke when your feare commeth. 1667 Milton P.L. ix. 285 His [Satan's] fraud is then thy fear.


6. Comb. a. objective with adj. as fear-free; with pr. pple., as fear-inspiring; b. instrumental with pa. pples., as fear-broken, fear-created, fear-depressed, fear-driven, fear-dulled, †fear-fled, fear-froze, fear-palsied, fear-pursued, fear-shaken, fear-shook, fear-smitten, fear-stirred, fear-stricken, fear-spurred, fear-surprised, fear-tangled, fear-taught; fear-blast v., to blast (a person) with fear; fear instinct, the instinctive tendency to be afraid; fear paroxysm, a paroxysm caused by fear; fear-struck, -strucken, struck with or overwhelmed by fear; fear-worship, worship resulting from fear.

1593 Nashe Four Lett. Confut. 74, I *fearblaste thee‥with the winde of my weapon. 1647 Fuller Good Th. in Worse T. (1841) 106 Soldiers' hearts might be *fear-broken by the score of their sins who were no soldiers. 1777 Potter Æschylus 190, Seven agst. Th., Is this a tale of *fear-created woe? 1597 Daniel Civ. Wars ii. x, *Fear-depressed envie. 1901 ‘L. Malet’ Hist. R. Calmady v. ix. 460 Some *fear-driven hurrying ghost. 1938 W. de la Mare Memory 9 The *fear-dulled eyes in the pallid face. 1611 Sylvester Du Bartas ii. iv. iii. Schisme 901 Each man hies Vnto the tents of *fear-fled Enemies. a1679 Earl of Orrery Guzman 11 Cannot you give me another [charm] to make me *Fear-free? 1791 E. Darwin Bot. Gard. i. 123 The demon‥Springs o'er the *fear-froze crew with Harpy-claws. 1812 Crabbe Dumb Orators Tales i, An awe~compelling frown, and *fear-inspiring size. 1904 W. M. Gallichan Fishing Spain xii. 118 Tragic dreams of this strange, fear-inspiring flood. 1908 W. McDougall Introd. Soc. Psychol. iv. 94 The *fear-instinct has‥a special perceptual inlet that renders it excitable by the sound of the cry of fear. 1923 D. H. Lawrence Kangaroo xvi. 335 The herd instinct, for example, is of many sorts. It has two main divisions, the fear-instinct, and the aggressive instinct. 1811 Shelley Let. 11 Jan. (1964) I. 38 Wild horror the *fear-palsied Earth is astounding. 1842 Sir A. De Vere Song of Faith 252 Fear-palsied, and his mind scarce half awake. 1890 W. James Princ. Psychol. II. xxiv. 419 A certain amount of timidity obviously adapts us to the world we live in, but the *fear-paroxysm is surely altogether harmful to him who is its prey. 1798 W. Sotheby tr. Wieland's Oberon (1826) I. 53 Nor ceas'd the wight to scamper, *fear-pursu'd. 1625 K. Long tr. Barclay's Argenis v. xvi. 381 Then came Selenissas death‥into his *feare-shaken mind. a1756 Collins Ode on Highlands 119 His *fear-shook limbs have lost their youthful force. 1870 Bryant Iliad II. xvii. 190 Idomeneus, *fear-smitten, lashed The long-maned steeds. c1626 Dick of Devon ii. v. in Bullen Old Pl. II. 42 Some of the *feare-spurrd villaines Were overturnd by slaughter in their flight. 1921 W. de la Mare Veil 87 To the *fear-stirred heart And the ancient dread Of man. 1906 B. von Hutten What became of Pam x. 176 The girl, *fear-stricken‥knelt down. 1636 Massinger Bashf. Lover ii. v, Let not‥these thick woods give sanctuary to the *fear-struck hares. 1776 Mickle tr. Camoens' Lusiad 53 The Moors start, fear-struck, at the horrid sound. 1870 Bryant Iliad II. xxi. 282 Fear-struck, yet hoping to avoid the doom. 1613 Drummond of Hawthornden Cypress Grove Wks. (1711) 124 Why shouldst thou be *fear-strucken‥for thy parting from‥thy body. 1602 Shakes. Ham. i. ii. 203 He walkt, By their opprest and *feare-surprized eyes. 1870 Morris Earthly Par. II. iii. 149 His hope *fear-tangled‥bound his eyes full fast. 1649 G. Daniel Trinarch., Hen. IV, ccxl, The *feare-taught Politicks Evade the Force, by yeilding to the Power. 1849 H. Mayo Truths Pop. Superst. vi. 85 Somnambulism‥has had no *fear-worship. 1865 Proc. Amer. Phil. Soc. X. 145 To learn the language of Fear-worship we must go back to the very beginning.