French Language Blog

Describing Fear in French Posted by on Oct 22, 2017 in Vocabulary

October is here, and the leaves are changing colors, the air is becoming more crisp, and you can buy pretty much anything pumpkin flavored.

It’s also a favorite month for many for the simple fact that Halloween makes an appearance. Who doesn’t love putting on a costume and getting candy in exchange? I am, admittedly, far too old to be doing that anymore, but the fact still remains: costumes for candy is a great idea. That being said, I’m not too old to get 50% off candy the day after Halloween.

The last day of October begins a three-day observance of Allhallowtide – a time of the year marked for remembering the dead. These days, that celebration is put on the back burner. Today, it’s more about having the most creative costume, watching scary movies, bar hopping, visiting scary houses, and going to the pumpkin patch for corn mazes, hay bale rides, and picking the perfect orange specimen to carve into a jack-o-lantern.

No matter how you celebrate Halloween, one of the key elements is fear. Honoring the dead shouldn’t be about fear, but since the reason has changed, we can now chatter our teeth in fear about zombies, witches, and ghosts. Not everyone likes to be scared, but it’s a very real human emotion, and it’s beneficial to know how to talk about your feelings in French. Today, we’re going to look at ways of describing fear. Below you’ll find common nouns, verbs, and expressions. There are some that you certainly won’t find in any textbook, so it’s best to avoid those in writing 😉

la peur
– fear
la crainte
– fear
– anxiety; fear
l’effroi – dread; terror
– terror
la panique
– panic
la frayeur
– fright
– worry
la panique
– panic, terror
un froussard
– chicken; wuss; coward

– anxious
– scared
– surprised
– terrible*
– horrible*
– frightened
* – both these words can be used in either a positive or negative sense. Context is important!

avoir peur
– to be scared
faire peur à quelqu’un
– to scare someone
– to worry
– to fear
– to be afraid of something/somebody
– to get distressed
– to tremble
– to shiver
être mort de peur
– to be scared to death
avoir la chair de poule
– to have goosebumps
claquer des dents
– to chatter your teeth
avoir la phobie de quelque chose
– to be scared of something

Colloquial Expressions
avoir les pétoches de quelque
chose – to be scared stiff about
avoir la trouille de quelque
chose – to be scared about
se chier de
– to crap yourself from something (but a bit more vulgar…)
se caguer de
– to crap yourself from something (caguer [to defecate] is a verb used exclusively in the south of France)

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About the Author: Josh Dougherty

Just your typical francophile. If you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know!