fre·​net·​ic fri-ˈne-tik How to pronounce frenetic (audio)
: marked by fast and energetic, disordered, or anxiety-driven activity : frenzied, frantic sense 2
a frenetic attempt to beat a deadline
frenetic bursts of energy
maintaining a frenetic pace
… succumb to exhaustion merely trying to keep up with the president's frenetic schedule.The Economist
… the "threatening" success of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," the signature book of the 1950s Beat Generation, and its frenetic search for sensation.Dennis Farney
frenetically adverb
Dillon and Deanne laughed and boogied frenetically for a moment, and then began to waltz as the speed was adjusted … Peter Cameron
Impulsive, provocative, frenetically energetic, teeming with ideas, articulate, generous and courageous, Dr Kouchner is also blunt, abrasive, impatient, disorganised, opinionated and quick-tempered. The Economist
freneticism noun
… the freneticism of the urban milieu of the late fifties and early sixties … Gregory W. Bredbeck
Nonstop one-liners, cartoon characters, pointless freneticism and a ridiculous denouement do not a mystery novel make. Sybil Steinberg

Did you know?

In modern use, frenetic can describe a focused and intense effort to meet a deadline, or dancing among a hyped-up crowd, but the word’s Middle English predecessor, frenetik, had a more specific meaning than “frantic or wild”: it was originally used to describe those exhibiting a severely disordered state of mind. If you trace frenetic back far enough, you’ll find that it comes from Greek phrenîtis, a term referring to an inflammation of the brain. (Phren, the Greek word for “mind” (among other meanings) is a root recognizable in schizophrenic.) As for frenzied and frantic, they’re not only synonyms of frenetic but relatives as well. Frantic comes from frenetik, and frenzied traces back to phrenîtis.

Examples of frenetic in a Sentence

The celebration was noisy and frenetic. the frenetic rush to get every member of the cast in place before the curtain went up
Recent Examples on the Web Even so, the lens avoids the frenetic, soap bubble look. PCMAG, 6 June 2024 The silhouette of a cargo ship inched north along the diffuse line between sky and sea, toward the frenetic cities on the mainland of Honshu. Kate Crockett, Condé Nast Traveler, 27 Dec. 2023 The problem for the West, though, is that China’s industrial dominance is underpinned by decades of experience using the power of a one-party state to pull all the levers of government and banking, while encouraging frenetic competition among private companies. Jim Tankersley, New York Times, 27 May 2024 In the meantime, Kaestner surely isn’t birding at the same frenetic pace as his final sprint, but his efforts continue. Christine Condon, Baltimore Sun, 26 Feb. 2024 See all Example Sentences for frenetic 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'frenetic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English frenetik, frentik, frantike "temporarily deranged, delirious," borrowed from Anglo-French frenetic, frenetique, borrowed from Latin phrenēticus "suffering from madness," borrowed from Greek phrenētikós, late variant of phrenītikós, from phrenîtis "inflammation of the brain, delirium, insanity" (from phren-, phrḗn "midriff, seat of the passions, mind, wit" —of uncertain origin— + -ītis -itis) + -ikos -ic entry 1

Note: The variants frentik and frantike suggest that frenetic was originally stressed on the first syllable; compare frantic, frenzy. — It has been assumed since antiquity that Greek phrḗn originally referred to a body part, but the nature of that part has never been completely clarified. Of the instances of the word in the Iliad and Odyssey (usually in the plural phrénes) that do not unambiguously refer to mental faculties, the consensus has been since the Homeric scholiasts that the word refers to the midriff and more specifically to the diaphragm. But occurrences in the Iliad such as the following passage (XVI, 503-04) would appear to indicate otherwise: "ho dè làx en stḗthesi baínōn / ek chroòs hélke dóru, protì dè phrénes autôi héponto" ("… and Patroklos stepping heel braced to chest dragged / the spear out of his [the Lycian hero Sarpedon's] body, and the midriff came away with it"—Richmond Lattimore translation). The phrénes that come out with the spear cannot reasonably refer to the entire midsection of Sarpedon's torso, nor does it seem likely that the diaphragm—mostly a thin sheet of tissue between the lungs and abdominal organs—would be pulled out either. (For detailed discussion of Greek usage see S. Ireland and F. L. D. Steel, "Greek φρένες as an anatomical Organ in the Works of Homer," Glotta, 53. Band, Heft 3/4 [1975], pp. 183-95.) Though ablaut variants of phrḗn have a rich derivational history in Greek, the word has no sure Indo-European etymology. A connection with Old Icelandic grunr "suspicion," gruna, grunda "to suspect" (presumed Indo-European *gwhren-?, with no other Germanic congeners) is doubtful at best. The formation of phrḗn is paralleled by several other body part words, as adḗn "gland" (see adeno-), auchḗn "neck, throat," splḗn "spleen" (see spleen).

First Known Use

circa 1529, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of frenetic was circa 1529


Dictionary Entries Near frenetic

Cite this Entry

“Frenetic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


fre·​net·​ic fri-ˈnet-ik How to pronounce frenetic (audio)
frenetically adverb

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