I am looking for a word or an idiom about showing respect to someone superior in work because you are afraid of him. I'm not talking about real respect or showing respect to him or his works, just getting scared by his ruthless actions.

Is there a word or an idiom for respecting someone because you are afraid of him?

8 Answers 8


Perhaps you can say that he is in awe of, intimidated by, cowed by or daunted by his superior.


[have] fearful respect, [be] in awe

The British Approach to Counterinsurgency: From Malaya and ... Paul Dixon - 2012

rather than inspire fear, but given its history of misuse and lack of precision in its meaning it may be best to lay the phrase to rest. ... The fearful respect of the local population is insufficient to establish a democratic state because democracy is ..


You could say that such a person might

kiss the rod
Accept punishment submissively

Oxford Dictionaries


You might find these words useful:

Subdue: example,

The pair managed to subdue a man who was holding his ex-partner at knifepoint in front of their seven-year-old son

Quieten: example,

When storms are brewing, he speaks, and quietens the waters.

and Overcome.


"reverence" is a feeling of profound awe and respect, often used in religious contexts.

Respect itself is sometimes used for a feeling that has grown out of fear - it's just that the person won't admit there's fear involved and prefers to use "respect". For instance: "John is tall and very strong. Everyone respects him." or "We have to respect the X (name of a people). They have the bomb."

  • "Reverence" carries a connotation of deserved respect for excellence in some way, not stemming from a desire for self-preservation. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 17:07

From a different angle, that of naming your behaviour towards the pointy-haired boss, you may note "to placate". The word contains the implication that if you don't kiss butt, he is all ready and waiting to do something bad to you.


In the US we say: 'You kowtow to the boss' or, you are kowtowing. It means showing deference - whether or not you are sincere. (Borrowed from the Chinese expression for kneeling and touching one's head to the ground, to a revered person.)


To be in awe of someone means to respect, fear, and admire someone.

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