: to press (the strings of a stringed instrument) against the frets
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Fret and Eating
The meat-and-potatoes meaning of fret is "to eat." The verb is used literally, as in "Mothsfretted 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."
Snow, Jones and Greenberg spend the season fretting over how to boost attendance and revenue to make OVW a sustainable enterprise.—Alison Herman, Variety, 13 Sep. 2023 But instead of celebrating the success and dreaming about multiple College Football Playoff berths, fans in Corvallis have to fret about the future of their program.—Jfreeman, oregonlive, 9 Sep. 2023 Blanket-bearing Linus waits up for the mythical Great Pumpkin while Charlie Brown frets about going to a Halloween party.—Amy MacKelden, ELLE, 28 Aug. 2023 In recent weeks, his mother, 22, has vacillated between elation and worry, especially fretting over her son’s ability to keep pace with his classmates.—Bobby Caina, Robert Bumsted and Elliot Spagat, Anchorage Daily News, 7 Sep. 2023 Investors are fretting over the ability of the world’s most valuable public company to do business in the world’s second-largest economy.—Nicole Goodkind, CNN, 7 Sep. 2023 Lawsuits are piling up in court over liability for the inferno, and businesses across the island are fretting about the loss of tourism.—Gene Johnson, Chicago Tribune, 6 Sep. 2023 Obama officials fretted about severing America’s close military ties with a key Arab counterterrorism partner.—Michael Crowley, New York Times, 6 Sep. 2023 This has always been Washington’s showcase, not just in terms of an AARP-age action hero vehicle but as a stage for him to strut without the least bit of fretting.—David Fear, Rolling Stone, 30 Aug. 2023
But fret not, because there's an effective solution: supplements specifically designed to alleviate dog anxiety.—Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 5 Aug. 2023 These networks are arranged in distinct computational compartments, like the spaces between the frets on the guitar.—Yasemin Saplakoglu, Quanta Magazine, 26 July 2023 Pushing for Change Many Indians overseas fret about bloodshed in India, where religious minorities make up 20 percent of the population, and where Hindu mobs are regularly accused of lynching people, mostly Muslims, for their food, style of dress, or interfaith marriages.—Damien Cave, New York Times, 18 July 2023 The story gets set in motion because military brass fret about human operators exhibiting reluctance to launch nuclear strikes, despite what appear to be valid orders.—Brian Lowry, CNN, 10 July 2023 Nor are Arab capitals the only ones that could weigh in; neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea fret about instability along their borders and may intervene more directly if Egypt does so.—Comfort Ero, Foreign Affairs, 26 May 2023 Beyond black-and-navy, some folks refuse to let brown duet with black, or fret if the shades of their shoes and belt differ a jot.—Jamie Waters, wsj.com, 28 Apr. 2023 And if the series finale of Succession leaves a gaping Waystar Royco-sized hole in your soul—and watchlist—fret not.—Leena Kim, Town & Country, 25 May 2023 But fret not: In 2023, bugs are few and far between.—Billy Studholme, Washington Post, 31 Jan. 2023 See More
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.
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
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
perhaps from Middle French frete ferrule, from freter