Don’t be Afraid…

Yes, it’s Hallowe’en again! Time to have a look at an appropriately spooky word. But first, a challenge:

Which of the following is the odd one out: scared, frightened, afraid.

Not easy, is it? They all have the same meaning of course, but one of them is different. How about I give you a clue:

I’m scared of spiders. Spiders scare me.

I’m frightened of rats. Rats frighten me.

I’m afraid of the dark.

Ah ha! Afraid is the only one of three that’s not formed from a verb. At one time though, it was. It was originally the past participle form of the Old English verb to afray, but that word gradually fell out of fashion, probably because to frighten and to scare did the job perfectly well.

Afraid has survived though, because it was used frequently in the King James Bible, giving it a sense of legitimacy, helping it to stay in people’s vocabularies long after they stopped using afray. Afraid even managed to oust afeared, which had been a very common adjective, derived from the also-now-obsolete to afear. Shakespeare was very fond of afeared, but people got so used to afraid from the Bible that it took over. Plus, it probably just sounded better for a lot of people.

So whatever you’re afraid of this Hallowe’en, comfort yourself in knowing that people have been afraid for hundreds of years now.

For more Hallowe’en reading, check out the following:

My Hallowe’en post from last year

Hallowe’en Reads: House of Leaves

Hallowe’en Reads: “Gramma”

Hallowe’en Reads: The Haunting of Hill House

Hallowe’en Reads: “The Three D’s”

Hallowe’en Reads: M.R James – Collected Ghost Stories

This blog’s Facebook page, where you can learn why I spell Hallowe’en with an apostrophe


5 thoughts on “Don’t be Afraid…

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