adjective, frail·er, frail·est.

having delicate health; not robust; weak: My grandfather is rather frail now.
easily broken or destroyed; fragile.
morally weak; easily tempted.


Older Slang: Sometimes Offensive. a term used to refer to a girl or woman.

Origin of frail

1300–50; Middle English frail(e), frel(e) < Old French < Latin fragilis fragile
Related formsfrail·ly, adverbfrail·ness, noun

Synonyms for frail

1, 2. feeble; breakable, frangible. Frail, brittle, fragile imply a delicacy or weakness of substance or construction. Frail applies particularly to health and immaterial things: a frail constitution; frail hopes. Brittle implies a hard material that snaps or breaks to pieces easily: brittle as glass. Fragile implies that the object must be handled carefully to avoid breakage or damage: fragile bric-a-brac.

Antonyms for frail

1, 2. sturdy.

Usage note

This term is sometimes perceived as insulting or condescending when used to refer to a woman, since it reinforces the stereotype of a weak female.




a flexible basket made of rushes, used especially for dried fruits, as dates, figs, or raisins.
a certain quantity of raisins, about 75 pounds (34 kg), contained in such a basket.

Origin of frail

1300–50; Middle English frayel, fraelle < Old French frayel < ? Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for frail

Contemporary Examples of frail

Historical Examples of frail

  • The sun had risen, while they sat, rocking on their frail support.

  • Four muskets only were left within their frail intrenchments.

    King Philip

    John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott

  • If his boat were not so frail and his arms were stronger, by pressing on and onward he could escape.

    Murder Point

    Coningsby Dawson

  • My condition was all too plain as I leaned against her frail body for support.

    The Shame of Motley

    Raphael Sabatini

  • Marius had seized her again and was crushing her frail body in his arms.

    St. Martin's Summer

    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for frail




physically weak and delicate
fragilea frail craft
easily corrupted or tempted
Derived Formsfrailly, adverbfrailness, noun

Word Origin for frail

C13: from Old French frele, from Latin fragilis, fragile




a rush basket for figs or raisins
a quantity of raisins or figs equal to between 50 and 75 pounds

Word Origin for frail

C13: from Old French fraiel, of uncertain origin
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 frail

mid-14c., "morally weak," from Old French fraile "weak, frail, sickly, infirm" (Modern French frêle), from Latin fragilis "easily broken" (see fragility). Sense of "liable to break" is first recorded in English late 14c. The U.S. slang noun meaning "a woman" is attested from 1908.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper