fret

1 of 6

verb (1)

fretted; fretting

transitive verb

1
a
: to eat or gnaw into : corrode
also : fray
The acid fretted the metal.
b
: rub, chafe
The harness strap was fretting the horse.
c
: to make by wearing away a substance
the stream fretted a channel
2
: to cause to suffer emotional strain : vex
don't you fret yourself about meJ. C. Powys
3
: to pass (time) in fretting
a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stageWilliam Shakespeare
4
: agitate, ripple
fret the surface of the lake

intransitive verb

1
a
: to eat into something
b
: to affect something as if by gnawing or biting : grate
the … urgent voice fretted at his nervesGraham Greene
2
a
: wear, corrode
Marble frets away due to the rain.
b
: chafe
His back where the harness rubbed began to fret.
3
a
: to become vexed or worried
fretting over the high cost of feeding their familiesVance Packard
b
of running water : to become agitated
a brook fretting over rocks

fret

2 of 6

noun (1)

1
a
: the action of wearing away : erosion
b
: a worn or eroded spot
2
: an agitation of mind : irritation

fret

3 of 6

verb (2)

fretted; fretting

transitive verb

1
a
: to decorate with interlaced designs
b
: to form a pattern upon
2
: to enrich with embossed or pierced carved patterns

fret

4 of 6

noun (2)

1
: an ornamental network
especially : a medieval metallic or jeweled net for a woman's headdress
2
: an ornament or ornamental work often in relief consisting of small straight bars intersecting one another in right or oblique angles

Illustration of fret

Illustration of fret
  • fret 2

fret

5 of 6

noun (3)

: one of a series of ridges fixed across the fingerboard of a stringed musical instrument (such as a guitar)
fretless adjective
fretted adjective

fret

6 of 6

verb (3)

fretted; fretting

transitive verb

: to press (the strings of a stringed instrument) against the frets

Did you know?

Fret and Eating

The meat-and-potatoes meaning of fret is "to eat." The verb is used literally, as in "Moths fretted the clothing," but more often figuratively to describe actions that corrode or wear away. A river "frets away" at its banks, or something might be said to be "fretted out" with time or age. Fret also applies to emotional experiences so that something that "eats away at someone" is "fretting the heart or mind."

Examples of fret in a Sentence

Verb (1) over the span of thousands of years, the annual spring runoff fretted the rock, forming a deep channel don't let the girth fret the horse's belly or you won't be able to ride him don't fret over whether it will be sunny tomorrow, as there's nothing we can do about it the stiff, starchy collar was fretting my neck, and I couldn't wait to change out of that costume Noun (1) one of my customers always gets into a fret if I'm so much as 15 minutes late delivering his newspaper
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
While media executives across Hollywood struggle with this existential question, Netflix co-Chief Executive Ted Sarandos isn’t fretting. Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times, 7 July 2024 Turns out that the Targaryens have been fretting over it for hundreds of years. Eliana Dockterman, TIME, 1 July 2024
Noun
Here, the fret of daily life disappears and is replaced with the sound of myna birds, wind rustling through palms, and alohas from staff members. Sarah Sekula, Travel + Leisure, 7 July 2024 But fret not—Fortune spoke to tourism, insurance, banking, and culture experts for their tips on navigating the city and having a great experience. Byprarthana Prakash, Fortune Europe, 29 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for fret 

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

Word History

Etymology

Verb (1) and Noun (1)

Middle English, to devour, fret, from Old English fretan to devour; akin to Old High German frezzan to devour, ezzan to eat — more at eat

Verb (2)

Middle English, back-formation from fret, fretted adorned, interwoven, from Anglo-French fretté, past participle of fretter to tie, probably from Vulgar Latin *firmitare, from Latin firmus firm

Noun (3)

perhaps from Middle French frete ferrule, from freter

First Known Use

Verb (1)

12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Noun (1)

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (3)

circa 1500, in the meaning defined above

Verb (3)

1602, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of fret was in the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near fret

Cite this Entry

“Fret.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fret. Accessed 21 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

fret

1 of 4 verb
fretted; fretting
1
: to make or become worried
fret over a problem
2
: to eat into or wear away
adobe fretted clean by wind and sand

fret

2 of 4 noun
: an irritated or worried state
in a fret

fret

3 of 4 noun
: an ornamental design of short lines or bars

fret

4 of 4 noun
: one of a series of ridges fixed across the fingerboard of a stringed musical instrument
fretless
ˈfret-ləs
adjective
fretted
ˈfret-əd
adjective
Etymology

Verb

Old English fretan "to devour"

Noun

Middle English fret, fretted "interwoven," from early French fretté, past participle of fretter "to tie"

Noun

perhaps from early French frete "connecting sleeve"

More from Merriam-Webster on fret

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