fre·​net·​ic | \ fri-ˈne-tik How to pronounce frenetic (audio) \

Definition of frenetic

: marked by fast and energetic, disordered, or anxiety-driven activity : frenzied, frantic sense 2 a frenetic attempt to beat a deadline frenetic bursts of energy maintaining a frenetic pace … succumb to exhaustion merely trying to keep up with the president's frenetic schedule.The Economist … the "threatening" success of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," the signature book of the 1950s Beat Generation, and its frenetic search for sensation.— Dennis Farney

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Other Words from frenetic

frenetically \ fri-​ˈne-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce frenetic (audio) \ adverb
Dillon and Deanne laughed and boogied frenetically for a moment, and then began to waltz as the speed was adjusted … — Peter Cameron Impulsive, provocative, frenetically energetic, teeming with ideas, articulate, generous and courageous, Dr Kouchner is also blunt, abrasive, impatient, disorganised, opinionated and quick-tempered. The Economist
freneticism \ fri-​ˈne-​tə-​ˌsi-​zəm How to pronounce frenetic (audio) \ noun
… the freneticism of the urban milieu of the late fifties and early sixties … — Gregory W. Bredbeck Nonstop one-liners, cartoon characters, pointless freneticism and a ridiculous denouement do not a mystery novel make. — Sybil Steinberg

Synonyms & Antonyms for frenetic



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When life gets frenetic, things can seem absolutely insane - at least that seems to be what folks in the Middle Ages thought. Frenetik, in Middle English, meant "insane." When the word no longer denoted stark raving madness, it conjured up fanatical zealots. Today its seriousness has been downgraded to something more akin to hectic. But if you trace frenetic back through Anglo-French and Latin, you'll find that it comes from Greek phrenitis, a term describing an inflammation of the brain. Phrēn, the Greek word for "mind," is a root you will recognize in schizophrenic. As for frenzied and frantic, they're not only synonyms of frenetic but relatives as well. Frantic comes from frenetik, and frenzied traces back to phrenitis.

Examples of frenetic in a Sentence

The celebration was noisy and frenetic. the frenetic rush to get every member of the cast in place before the curtain went up
Recent Examples on the Web Bookended by the opening and closing bells of the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, the trading day is often frenetic. Declan Harty, Fortune, 8 Oct. 2021 The pace was frenetic, with significant coordination between CIA, NSC, DOJ and the FBI. CBS News, 15 Sep. 2021 Games usually have a particular audience, but Fortnite is adept at offering something for everyone, with creative and role-playing elements alongside frenetic third-person-shooter action. Simon Hill, Wired, 9 Sep. 2021 Yet his strategy, if it can be called that, has become clear over two days of increasingly frenetic action by a president 62 days from losing power. David E. Sanger, New York Times, 19 Nov. 2020 This kind of decline is not necessarily visible from the outside, but insiders see a hundred small, disquieting signs of it every day — user-hostile growth hacks, frenetic pivots, executive paranoia, the gradual attrition of talented colleagues. New York Times, 4 Oct. 2021 All throughout these frenetic opening passages, scenes start too late and end too early. Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, 4 Oct. 2021 The same mix of chaos and parity that ruled the conference prior to COVID is back in full frenetic force in this mostly normal season. oregonlive, 3 Oct. 2021 French President Emmanuel Macron has been zipping around France at frenetic speed in recent weeks, delivering speeches about law and order, unveiling public art, and promising greener high-speed trains. Colette Davidson, The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Oct. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'frenetic.' 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 frenetic

circa 1529, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for frenetic

Middle English frenetik, frentik, frantike "temporarily deranged, delirious," borrowed from Anglo-French frenetic, frenetique, borrowed from Latin phrenēticus "suffering from madness," borrowed from Greek phrenētikós, late variant of phrenītikós, from phrenîtis "inflammation of the brain, delirium, insanity" (from phren-, phrḗn "midriff, seat of the passions, mind, wit" —of uncertain origin— + -ītis -itis) + -ikos -ic entry 1

Note: The variants frentik and frantike suggest that frenetic was originally stressed on the first syllable; compare frantic, frenzy. — It has been assumed since antiquity that Greek phrḗn originally referred to a body part, but the nature of that part has never been completely clarified. Of the instances of the word in the Iliad and Odyssey (usually in the plural phrénes) that do not unambiguously refer to mental faculties, the consensus has been since the Homeric scholiasts that the word refers to the midriff and more specifically to the diaphragm. But occurrences in the Iliad such as the following passage (XVI, 503-04) would appear to indicate otherwise: "ho dè làx en stḗthesi baínōn / ek chroòs hélke dóru, protì dè phrénes autôi héponto" ("… and Patroklos stepping heel braced to chest dragged / the spear out of his [the Lycian hero Sarpedon's] body, and the midriff came away with it"—Richmond Lattimore translation). The phrénes that come out with the spear cannot reasonably refer to the entire midsection of Sarpedon's torso, nor does it seem likely that the diaphragm—mostly a thin sheet of tissue between the lungs and abdominal organs—would be pulled out either. (For detailed discussion of Greek usage see S. Ireland and F. L. D. Steel, "Greek φρένες as an anatomical Organ in the Works of Homer," Glotta, 53. Band, Heft 3/4 [1975], pp. 183-95.) Though ablaut variants of phrḗn have a rich derivational history in Greek, the word has no sure Indo-European etymology. A connection with Old Icelandic grunr "suspicion," gruna, grunda "to suspect" (presumed Indo-European *gwhren-?, with no other Germanic congeners) is doubtful at best. The formation of phrḗn is paralleled by several other body part words, as adḗn "gland" (see adeno-), auchḗn "neck, throat," splḗn "spleen" (see spleen).

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The first known use of frenetic was circa 1529

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Last Updated

21 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Frenetic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for frenetic



English Language Learners Definition of frenetic

: filled with excitement, activity, or confusion : wild or frantic

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