Frighten, fright, scare, alarm, terrify, terrorize, startle, affray, affright mean to strike or to fill with fear or dread.
Frighten is perhaps the most frequent in use; it is the most inclusive, for it may range in implication from a momentary reaction to a stimulus to a state of mind in which fear or dread prevails. Typically, however, it implies a more or less paralyzing fear affecting either the body or the will.
Fright is an older and chiefly literary or dialect form of frighten. In informal and conversational use scare is often equivalent to frighten ; in more formal use it usually implies fear that causes one to run, shy, or tremble.
Alarm in the relevant sense (compare ALARM 1 ) nearly always stresses apprehension or anxiety.
Terrify emphasizes intensity of fear and agitation; it usually suggests a state of mind in which self-control or self-direction is impossible.
Terrorize, in distinction from terrify, implies the effect of an intention and therefore is used in reference to voluntary agents; thus, one may say that gangs terrorized the neighborhood by their constant depredations and that the depredations of the gangs terrified the neighborhood. Terrorize often implies coercion or intimidation.
Startle implies surprise and a sudden shock that causes one to jump or flinch; occasionally its suggestion of fright is very weak.
Affray and affright are uncommon in modern use, the former, as a rule, coming close to terrify and the latter, to frighten .