fri·​a·​ble ˈfrī-ə-bəl How to pronounce friable (audio)
: easily crumbled or pulverized
friable soil
friability noun

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When should you use friable?

Friable entered into English in the mid-1500s, and was borrowed either from Middle French or directly from Latin friabilis. This Latin adjective comes from the verb "friare," which means "to crumble." "Friare" in turn is related to the verb "fricare" ("to rub"), the source of the English noun "friction." "Friable" is used to describe something that can be easily reduced to a powdered form. In contemporary usage, it is often found in the discussion of asbestos. Health concerns about asbestos primarily center around friable asbestos—that is, asbestos that is easily pulverized into tiny fibers which may remain suspended in the air and become a potential health risk to those who inhale them.

Choose the Right Synonym for friable

fragile, frangible, brittle, crisp, friable mean breaking easily.

fragile implies extreme delicacy of material or construction and need for careful handling.

a fragile antique chair

frangible implies susceptibility to being broken without implying weakness or delicacy.

frangible stone used for paving

brittle implies hardness together with lack of elasticity or flexibility or toughness.

brittle bones

crisp implies a firmness and brittleness desirable especially in some foods.

crisp lettuce

friable applies to substances that are easily crumbled or pulverized.

friable soil

Examples of friable in a Sentence

sand dollars are friable, so handle them carefully
Recent Examples on the Web All beds are mulched to prevent water loss and to keep the soil friable. Sacramento Bee, 30 Jan. 2024 What is Leaf Mold? Simply put, leaf mold is a valuable soil conditioner that can be made by leaving leaves to decompose into a crumbly, friable mulch or potting ingredient. Elizabeth Waddington, Treehugger, 7 Sep. 2023 The hammers fell hard on LeMond’s friable frame. Adrienne So, Wired, 14 Sep. 2021 The paper is cheap, friable, the glue impermanent. John Warner,, 23 Aug. 2021 Does the compost have a dark, friable texture? oregonlive, 14 Aug. 2021 The meteorite in question is not a hard, dense rock, but actually very soft and friable (crumbly). Phil Plait, Discover Magazine, 7 Mar. 2011 The rock beneath the massive flood deposits was relatively friable volcanic rock, easily broken and carved. Riley Black, Smithsonian Magazine, 19 Apr. 2022 They’re turned annually, but otherwise left to their own devices in a tri-year cycle that converts his kitchen scraps, weeds and leaves into moist friable soil rich in micronutrients. Beth Segal, cleveland, 8 July 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'friable.' 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 French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin friabilis, from friare to crumble — more at friction

First Known Use

1563, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of friable was in 1563


Dictionary Entries Near friable

Cite this Entry

“Friable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


fri·​a·​ble ˈfrī-ə-bəl How to pronounce friable (audio)
: easily crumbled or broken up
friable soil
friability noun

Medical Definition


fri·​a·​ble ˈfrī-ə-bəl How to pronounce friable (audio)
: easily crumbled or pulverized
friable carcinomatous tissue
also : marked by erosion and bleeding
a friable cervix with bleeding on contact Pippa Oakeshott et al.
friability noun
plural friabilities

More from Merriam-Webster on friable

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