What would be a word to describe someone that everyone is scared/frightened of?

Example 1:

The employees are scared to ask the boss to extend the deadline because he is ______.

(the blank would be replaced with something like 'scary')

Example 2:

Our dictator is so _____ that nobody dares to oppose him.

  • Maybe quite literally terrorizing? Feb 3, 2017 at 17:36
  • 3
    an ogre, is what he is.
    – Lambie
    Feb 3, 2017 at 18:40
  • 1
    I don’t think North Korea’s dictator is a very good example to give. Most people worldwide (i.e., outside North Korea) consider him a joke, a laughing stock. They’re certainly not scared of him. Feb 4, 2017 at 0:25
  • 2
    If you want to emphasize the unpredictability, you could use mercurial. Feb 4, 2017 at 9:07
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    The answer depends on what in particular makes people scared of the person. If it is the fury of his behavior, you might use tempestuous or volcanic or the phrase a walking time bomb. If it is his cruelty, you might go with vicious or sadistic. If it is his lack of regard for normal standards of baseline human respect and obligation, you could try sociopathic. If it is his unpredictability, erratic might work. If it is his disconnection from sanity, you might opt for unhinged.
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 4, 2017 at 23:02

10 Answers 10


Perhaps intimidating will work:


  • To make timid or fearful; frighten

  • To compel or deter by or as if by threats

The employees are scared to ask the boss to extend the deadline because he is intimidating.

North Korea's dictator is so intimidating that nobody dares to oppose him.



I think that intimidating is the best answer, but just to offer an alternative, consider tyrannical, defined at dictionary.com as:

unjustly cruel, harsh, or severe; arbitrary or oppressive; despotic

It fits nicely in the blanks of both of your examples.


Slightly stronger than intimidating is:


adj. causing great fear or dread; extremely frightening



A relatively simple word which works is feared.

The employees are scared to ask the boss to extend the deadline because he is feared.
That dictator is so feared that nobody dares to oppose him.


feared ‎(comparative more feared, superlative most feared)
Pertaining to someone or thing that causes great fear in others.


I like nefarious.

: flagrantly wicked or impious; evil [Merriam-Webster's]

His nefarious activities include lying, cheating, and stealing.

  • 2
    Hm, nefarious doesn't necessarily make people scared of you, though. Feb 3, 2017 at 18:12
  • True, but the OP's examples were different from the posted question
    – Stu W
    Feb 3, 2017 at 21:30
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    Describing a person (rather than an act, a purpose, an activity, etc.) as nefarious sounds… unusual at best. Feb 4, 2017 at 0:23

I think both oppressive and maniacal could be used.

  • 2
    Explanation, please
    – Helmar
    Feb 5, 2017 at 7:50
  • Sorry about what happened to you over at Meta. Don't reply as comments are visible from network account.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 15 at 8:56

This person could be classified as a bully.

bul·ly ˈbo͝olē/ noun 1. a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. synonyms: persecutor, oppressor, tyrant, tormentor, intimidator;
verb 1. use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants. "a local man was bullied into helping them" synonyms: persecute, oppress, tyrannize, browbeat, harass, torment, intimidate, strong-arm, dominate;

  • I do believe the OP is looking for an adjective to describe the person. You have given both a noun and a verb, but not an adjective. You should also look at severely formatting this answer for the better.
    – Hank
    Feb 3, 2017 at 21:06
  • @Hank: Got it. Thanks for your input. I suggested "bully" as to facilitate a different creative framework. 'Intimidate' appears to be the pick, but depending on the context of what the OP is attempting to communicate, an alternative frame of reference could be useful. Anyone can use a thesaurus--I believe people ask questions about language or writing in order to expand their own perspective.
    – M.Mat
    Feb 4, 2017 at 9:29


om·nip·o·tent ˌämˈnipəd(ə)nt/ adjective adjective: omnipotent 1. (of a deity) having unlimited power; able to do anything. synonyms: all-powerful, almighty, supreme, preeminent, most high; More having ultimate power and influence. "an omnipotent sovereign" noun noun: omnipotent; plural noun: omnipotents 1. God.

Definition Complements of Google Search


Infamous, perhaps? It's not quite right, since it means famous for being bad, but it could be used together with some other adjective, e.g., "infamously scary"


Maybe formidable? The word implies both a wariness of the individual and that said wariness is warranted.

formidable adjective inspiring fear or respect through being impressively large, powerful, intense, or capable: 'a formidable opponent'

Source: Oxford Dictionaries.

  • Hello, Brad Ford, and thanks for your interest in English Language & Usage. This site tries to be punctilious about citing the sources of definitions and other quoted language included in answers (as I have done retroactively with your definition of formidable above). In future, please provide source information for any content that you quote in answers at this site. Thanks!
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 4, 2017 at 23:54

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