fris·​son | \ frē-ˈsōⁿ How to pronounce frisson (audio) \
plural frissons\ frē-​ˈsōⁿ(z) How to pronounce frisson (audio) \

Definition of frisson

: a brief moment of emotional excitement : shudder, thrill produce a genuine frisson of disquiet— Patricia Craig a frisson of surprise a frisson of delight

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Frisson and Shiver

I feel a shiver that's not from the cold as the band and the crowd go charging through the final notes…. That frisson, that exultant moment.... That's how writer Robert W. Stock characterized the culmination of a big piece at a concert in 1982. His use of the word shiver is apt given that "frisson" comes from the French word for "shiver." "Frisson" traces to Old French friçon, which in turn derives from "frictio," Latin for friction. What does friction-normally a heat generator-have to do with thrills and chills? Nothing, actually. The association came about because "frictio" (which derives from Latin fricare, meaning "to rub") was once mistakenly taken to be a derivative of "frigēre," which means "to be cold."

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 That’s why his appearance sparks a frisson of excitement. Nate Jones, Vulture, "The 32 Greatest Character Actors Working Today," 21 Nov. 2020 Even through a different lens, though, watching someone finding her artistic voice never fails to evoke a frisson of recognition and vicarious triumph. Washington Post, "In ‘My Brilliant Career,’ I recognized an uncanny mirror image. And a cautionary tale.," 16 Jan. 2021 Driving under the proper conditions—the right kind of car, small, light, and responsive to the slightest touch—made driving a sport and a pleasure, with a frisson of underlying danger to penalize a lack of skill. Bruce Mccall, The New Yorker, "My Life in Cars," 12 Dec. 2020 For children ages 2-4, this endearing book will deliver just the right kind of frisson at Halloween or, really, anytime. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, "Children’s Books: Beguiling Bones and Friendly Monsters," 16 Oct. 2020 Without the frisson of face-to-face confrontation, what’s the point of this town-hall showdown? Libby Watson, The New Republic, "America’s Next Top Town Halls Are No Way to Pick a President," 14 Oct. 2020 Lockdown was scary from the get go, but those initial weeks had the frisson of disruption. Christian Holub,, "Quarantine Book Club: How I got lost in Piranesi during the pandemic," 17 Sep. 2020 What's missing, of course, is the frisson of being in a hotel bar or dining room with fellow flesh-and-blood attendees and the full benefit of our evolutionary perceptions. Steven Levy, Wired, "Videoconferencing Needs to Climb Out of the Uncanny Valley," 18 June 2020 But without the frisson of shame, Uncanny Valley would be a completely different book, and not nearly as good. Malcolm Harris, The New Republic, "The Uneasy Promise of Life in Silicon Valley," 3 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'frisson.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of frisson

1777, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for frisson

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)

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Time Traveler for frisson

Time Traveler

The first known use of frisson was in 1777

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Last Updated

2 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Frisson.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of frisson

somewhat formal : a sudden strong feeling or emotion

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