fris·​son frē-ˈsōⁿ How to pronounce frisson (audio)
plural frissons frē-ˈsōⁿ(z) How to pronounce frisson (audio)
: a brief moment of emotional excitement : shudder, thrill
produce a genuine frisson of disquietPatricia Craig
a frisson of surprise
a frisson of delight

Did you know?

Frisson and Shiver

A chill down one’s spine isn’t always a sensation of fear or suspense. As Daniel Marenco writes, “What is most exciting about literature is how much it surprises us and makes us fall in love. Poetry especially has this gift, the gift of provoking in us a frisson, a shiver, this capacity, like a bee, to put honey on the tip of our tongue, provoking that pleasant sensation of feeling and perceiving.” His relating of frisson and shiver is apt given that frisson comes from the French word for “shiver.” (Those familiar with shivering will note that it’s also apt that frisson traces back to ultimately to Late Latin frīgēre “to be cold” or frīgēscere “to become cold.”) A frisson can be compared to a thrill or a rush, as it refers to a brief moment of emotional excitement, as in “a frisson of surprise.”

Examples of frisson in a Sentence

those two are still caught up in the giddy frisson of a new romance
Recent Examples on the Web So in this work every frisson of innovation comes alongside an insistent drive downwards into the solid earth of structure, and every gleam of melody brings broad stretches of orchestral sound in its train. Simon Callow, The New York Review of Books, 22 Dec. 2022 The air was still, save for a frisson of anticipation at the far corner of the site, a concentration of youthful excitement loosely formed into a queue of hundreds outside one of the festival’s marquee tents. Max Pilley, SPIN, 22 Jan. 2024 At various points, their interest in me as a young gay man was conditioned on a frisson, a charge between us. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 31 Dec. 2023 The Yiddish cadences that performers used in vaudeville bits, the snatches of cantorial music that composers smuggled into dialect song parodies—for Jewish audiences, these interpolations offered a frisson, the thrill of watching a parochial tribal thing become a mainstream pop thing. Jody Rosen, The New Yorker, 7 Oct. 2023 There’s an undeniable frisson in the clash between its ruthless reality and its mythos, which ranges from ultra-romantic to sublimely silly. Sara Holdren, Vulture, 22 Sep. 2023 Much like the Tabi boot, this kind of thing feels deliberately distasteful, all while maintaining a frisson of playfulness and provocation. Daniel Rodgers, Vogue, 27 Sep. 2023 Gemma Warren Laufey’s nostalgic sound combined with her off-hand phrasing gives her a charming frisson. Mosha Lundström Halbert, Vogue, 7 Sep. 2023 In a 2021 talk to an online class, Uhry spoke of having a frisson of doubt about Frank’s innocence, which is widely accepted. Helen Shaw, The New Yorker, 16 Mar. 2023 See More

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

Word History


French, shiver, from Old French friçon, from Late Latin friction-, frictio, from Latin, literally, friction (taken in Late Latin as derivative of frigēre to be cold)

First Known Use

1777, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of frisson was in 1777


Dictionary Entries Near frisson

Cite this Entry

“Frisson.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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