I hear word "creepy" a lot in many situations but is it always including a scared feeling?

For example when people are watching horror movies, or dolls which seems scary, people say creepy!

I think it's like eerie, Feeling scared because maybe ghost or mystery things happen.

But when people saw stalker, or acting weird, or weird cartoon but not like scary like spooky way, I hear they say "creepy".

In my language in this situation we use words maybe like "yuck!" "Gross" in english. We feel unpleasant and nausea, making us feel sick about the stalker, weird people, cartoons but not including scary feeling.

But when in english people say "creepy" about stalker, weird people, cartoons, does it include a scary feeling? Or is it more just like "yuck! Makes me feel sick!" nuance?

  • You don't want to be around a place that is creepy or a person who is creepy. They "creep you out" or "give you the creeps", a feeling of unwholesomeness mixed with danger. They "make your skin crawl".
    – TimR
    Dec 5, 2017 at 19:21
  • It really can mean any of those things, as these definitions show. Depending on the context, it can be synonymous with scary, annoying, gross, disturbing, menacing or eerie.
    – J.R.
    Dec 5, 2017 at 19:44

2 Answers 2


Remember that "creepy" comes from things that creep (note that the study of amphibians and reptiles, which "creep" along, is called herpetology, from Greek herpein, meaning "to creep").

Most humans have a built-in aversion to things that creep, especially snakes, and so the important thing to remember about something that is "creepy" is that the feeling bypasses the level of the intellect and burrows right down to the sympathetic nervous system, the area that reacts with strong emotion. If you see a spider on your arm you don't think about it, you just want to get it off you.

That's how we react when we see something that is scary or weird and potentially dangerous (like a weird man hanging around an elementary school), and breaking out in goose bumps or feeling your hackles rise is a natural, unmediated reaction.

So when something is "creepy" it's beyond rationalization. It is just something you feel, without necessarily being able to explain why.


Yes, "creepy" has (at least) three rather distinct meanings.

  1. Scary, as in, "I think that house is haunted. At least, it is very creepy."

  2. Distasteful or upsetting, as in, "The way that old man chases after teenage girls is really creepy." I think this sense is usually used for disturbing sexual behavior.

  3. Suspicious, in the sense of someone who arouses suspicion by their appearance or behavior. "There's a creepy man hanging around outside." (This may be fair or unfair. Someone may think he's creepy just because he dresses in a certain way, even if he's done nothing criminal, etc.)

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