20

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? – JeopardyTempest Feb 3 '17 at 17:36
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    an ogre, is what he is. – Lambie Feb 3 '17 at 18:40
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    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. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 4 '17 at 0:25
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    If you want to emphasize the unpredictability, you could use mercurial. – Spehro Pefhany Feb 4 '17 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 '17 at 23:02

10 Answers 10

40

Perhaps intimidating will work:

Intimidate

  • 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.

(MWD)

  • 5
    If you want something shorter, "daunting" also runs along these same lines. – SeldomNeedy Feb 3 '17 at 16:32
14

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.

9

Slightly stronger than intimidating is:

terrifying

adj. causing great fear or dread; extremely frightening

thefreedictionary.com

3

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.

Wiktionary:

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

1

I like nefarious.

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

His nefarious activities include lying, cheating, and stealing.

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    Hm, nefarious doesn't necessarily make people scared of you, though. – MissMonicaE Feb 3 '17 at 18:12
  • True, but the OP's examples were different from the posted question – Stu W Feb 3 '17 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. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 4 '17 at 0:23
1

I think both oppressive and maniacal could be used.

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    Explanation, please – Helmar Feb 5 '17 at 7:50
0

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 '17 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 '17 at 9:29
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Omnipotent

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

-1

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"

-1

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 '17 at 23:54

protected by Community Feb 4 '17 at 19:18

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