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verb (used with object)
  1. to squander or disperse piecemeal; waste little by little (usually followed by away): to fritter away one's money; to fritter away an afternoon.
  2. to break or tear into small pieces or shreds.
verb (used without object)
  1. to dwindle, shrink, degenerate, etc. (often followed by away): to watch one's fortune fritter away.
  2. to separate or break into fragments: a plastic material having a tendency to fritter.
  1. a small piece, fragment, or shred.

Origin of fritter1

1720–30; earlier fitter, derivative of fit (Old English fitt) a part
Related formsfrit·ter·er, nounun·frit·tered, adjective


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1. dissipate, frivol away, idle away.


  1. a small cake of batter, sometimes containing corn, fruit, clams, or some other ingredient, fried in deep fat or sautéed.

Origin of fritter2

1350–1400; Middle English friture, frytour < Old French friture < Late Latin frīctūra a frying, equivalent to Latin frict(us), past participle of frīgere to fry1 + -ūra -ure
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for fritter

Historical Examples

  • But Delancy had no time to fritter away on niceties of etiquette.

    Making People Happy

    Thompson Buchanan

  • But there are always a few who fritter their time, and leave the same as they enter.

  • The curse of the ranchers is that they fritter away their strength.

    The Octopus

    Frank Norris

  • I want to keep it in my purse, and fritter it away just as I like.

    Betty Trevor

    Mrs. G. de Horne Vaizey

  • Your intelligence all in the abstract; only folly and fritter for your own affairs.

British Dictionary definitions for fritter


verb (tr)
  1. (usually foll by away) to waste or squanderto fritter away time
  2. to break or tear into small pieces; shred
  1. a small piece; shred
Derived Formsfritterer, noun

Word Origin

C18: probably from obsolete fitter to break into small pieces, ultimately from Old English fitt a piece


  1. a piece of food, such as apple or clam, that is dipped in batter and fried in deep fat

Word Origin

C14: from Old French friture, from Latin frictus fried, roasted, from frīgere to fry, parch
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for fritter


"whittle away," 1728, from fritters "fragment or shred," possibly from a noun sense, but this is not recorded as early as the verb; perhaps an alteration of 16c. fitters "fragments or pieces," perhaps ultimately from Old French fraiture "a breaking," from Latin fractura. Or perhaps from a Germanic source (cf. Middle High German vetze "clothes, rags").


"fried batter," late 14c., from Old French friture "fritter, pancake, something fried" (12c.), from Late Latin frictura "a frying," from frigere "to roast, fry" (see fry (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper