"to frighten," Middle English, from Old English fyrhtan "to terrify, fill with fear," from the source of fright (n.). Old English had also forhtian "be afraid, become full of fear, tremble," but the primary sense of the verb in Middle English was "to make afraid."
early 15c., of swellings, inflammations, etc., "hardened;" by 1660s as "turned to stone," from a French or Medieval Latin source (see petrify). Figurative meaning "paralyzed (with fright, etc.)" is from 1720.
"to recoil, take sudden fright or aversion," 1640s, from shy (adj.). The transitive sense of "shun, avoid" (someone or something) is by 1802. To shy away from "find a means of evading" is by 1867. Related: Shied; shying.
1520s, "something that frightens, a scarecrow;" 1540s, "sudden panic, sudden terror inspired by a trifling cause, false alarm," from scare (v.). The earlier form was Middle English sker "fear, dread, terror, fright" (c. 1400). Scare tactic "attempt to manipulate public opinion by exploitation of fear" is by 1948.
"sudden mass terror," especially an exaggerated fright affecting a number of persons without visible cause or inspired by trifling cause or danger, 1708, from an earlier adjective (c. 1600, modifying fear, terror, etc.), from French panique (15c.), from Greek panikon, literally "pertaining to Pan," the god of woods and fields, who was the source of mysterious sounds that caused contagious, groundless fear in herds and crowds, or in people in lonely spots. In the sense of "panic, fright" the Greek word is short for panikon deima "panic fright," from neuter of Panikos "of Pan."
The meaning "widespread apprehension in a trading community about financial matters" is recorded by 1757. Panic-stricken is attested from 1804. Panic attack attested by 1970. Panic button in a figurative sense is by 1948 in the jargon of jet pilots; the literal sense is by 1965 in reference to prison security.
And if he gets in a tight spot and doesn't know what to do, he "pushes the panic button for two minutes of disorganized confusion." During his first few weeks he may even find the panic button "stuck in the on position." ["How Jet Jockeys Are Made," Popular Science, December 1948]