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What's the difference between "to frighten" and "to scare"? I've heard both, but have never been able to figure out the difference.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I would suggest that 'frighten' is more intense than 'scare'. Although they are (very) similar, being scared is less serious than being frightened. That is definitely a second-order effect though; to a first approximation, they are (almost) equivalent.

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Thank You, Jonathan. It was my suspicion, too, but I didn't dare to put it forth here. – brilliant Nov 28 '10 at 5:52

The two words are synonyms and may be used interchangeably. Scare comes the Old Norse word skirra meaning "frighten."

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I would use frighten when I mean something with the hint of a surprise. Scare would mean something more gradual, as in "to scare with fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD)"

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