afraid (adj.)

"impressed with fear, fearful," early 14c., originally the past participle of the now-obsolete Middle English verb afray "frighten," from Anglo-French afrayer, Old French affrai, effrei, esfrei "disturbance, fright," from esfreer (v.) "to worry, concern, trouble, disturb," from Vulgar Latin *exfridare, a hybrid word meaning literally "to take out of peace."

The first element is from Latin ex "out of" (see ex-). The second is Frankish *frithu "peace," from Proto-Germanic *frithuz "peace, consideration, forbearance" (source also of Old Saxon frithu, Old English friu, Old High German fridu "peace, truce," German Freide "peace"), from a suffixed form of PIE root *pri- "to be friendly, to love."

A rare case of an English adjective that never stands before a noun. Because it was used in the King James Bible, it acquired independent standing and thrived while affray faded, and it chased off the once more common afeared. Colloquial sense in I'm afraid "I regret to say, I suspect" (without implication of fear, as a polite introduction to a correction, admission, etc.) is recorded by 1590s.

Her blue affrayed eyes wide open shone [Keats, "The Eve of St. Agnes," 1820]

updated on September 15, 2022

Definitions of afraid from WordNet

afraid (adj.)
filled with fear or apprehension;
suddenly looked afraid
afraid even to turn his head
afraid for his life
afraid to ask questions
afraid of snakes
afraid (adj.)
filled with regret or concern; used often to soften an unpleasant statement;
I'm afraid I won't be able to come
he was afraid he would have to let her go
I'm afraid you're wrong
afraid (adj.)
feeling worry or concern or insecurity;
She was afraid that I might be embarrassed
I am afraid we have witnessed only the first phase of the conflict
terribly afraid of offending someone
afraid (adj.)
having feelings of aversion or unwillingness;
afraid to show emotion
afraid of hard work
Etymologies are not definitions. From, not affiliated with etymonline.