Fear is an emotion that is experienced by most people, but the nuances of the word may be hard for students to grasp. Fear can refer to alarming feelings in general or towards something specific, like a spider. In both of these cases fear is used as a noun. As a verb, fear can mean to regard something with apprehension or awe. For example, a ruler might be feared because of her power. She might be held in revere or dreaded depending on how she rules her people.
Fear does not have a Spanish cognate. The word originates from the Old English word faéran, meaning to terrify. This definition is connected to the Old English word fáer meaning a sudden calamity or danger and the Old Norse word fár meaning misfortune or plague. Although fear does not have a Spanish cognate, some of its synonyms do. For example, the Spanish cognate of apprehension is la aprehensión.
The idiom “heebie-jeebies” relates to a state of fear or anxiety and was first used by the American cartoonist W. B. DeBeck in the 1920s. The cartoon read, “You dumb ox – why don’t you get that stupid look offa your pan – you gimme the heeby jeebys!” The phrase quickly became popular and was even used in what is considered the first improvisation in lyrics by famous jazz artist, Louis Armstrong, in 1926. This type of improvisation is now known as scat singing. The phrase is still used today to convey a sense of anxiety or fear.