adjective, frail·er, frail·est.
  1. having delicate health; not robust; weak: My grandfather is rather frail now.
  2. easily broken or destroyed; fragile.
  3. morally weak; easily tempted.
  1. 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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for frailer

Historical Examples of frailer

  • He looked leaner and frailer and less robustious than of old.

    The Prairie Mother

    Arthur Stringer

  • He looked wistful, and frailer at the end of the evening than he had at the beginning.

    Play the Game!

    Ruth Comfort Mitchell

  • The other man, who was much younger and frailer, had a thin, clean-shaven face.


    James Joyce

  • Straws were straws, and the frailer they were the harder she clutched them.

  • Then, out of sympathy for the frailer girl, she too shuddered.

British Dictionary definitions for frailer


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

Word Origin for frail

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


  1. a rush basket for figs or raisins
  2. 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 frailer



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