- a fight, battle, or skirmish.
- a competition or contest, especially in sports.
- a noisy quarrel or brawl.
- Archaic. fright.
- Archaic. to frighten.
- Archaic. to fight or brawl.
Origin of fray1
This fray was borrowed into English from an Anglo-French word with the various meanings “to disturb,” “to attack,” and also “to frighten.” The past participle of this same word ( affrayed, meaning “alarmed”) became, in English, afraid.
While nowadays frays are things that people willingly “enter” or “join” or even “throw themselves into,” early in its history the fear aspect dominated. And so, in the 1300s, one could speak of frayes and dredes (fears and dreads) and in the 1500s, one might find a fray-boggard (fear-goblin) in the garden, a frightening specter better known to us as a scarecrow.
- "Shall we play the coward, then, and leave the hard knocks for our daughters, or shall we throw ourselves into the fray, bare our own shoulders to the blows, and thus bequeath to them a politically liberated womanhood?"-Carrie Chapman Catt The Crisis (delivered September 7, 1916)
- "The Portuguese [referees] offered no brotherly love to Pelé by fouling him seven times, eventually forcing his withdrawal from the fray."-Tony Mason Passion of the people?: Football in South America (1995)
- "Pedestrians attempted to squeeze by and avoid being pulled into the loud fray between the two draymen."-Georgina Flemming The Light to My Darkness (1992)
- to wear (cloth, rope, etc.) to loose, raveled threads or fibers at the edge or end; cause to ravel out: Our old washing machine frayed all of our towels.
- to wear by rubbing (sometimes followed by through).
- to cause strain on (something); upset; discompose: All that arguing is fraying my nerves.
- to rub.
- to wear into loose, raveled threads or fibers, as cloth; ravel out: My sweater frayed at the elbows.
- to become strained or stressed: Jealousy could be a sign that your relationship is fraying.
- to rub against something: tall grass fraying against my knees.
- a raveled or worn part, as in cloth: frays at the toes of well-worn sneakers.
Origin of fray2
This fray is closely related to the word friction, as both have as a common ancestor the Latin fricāre, meaning “to rub.” It makes sense—given enough friction, things will begin to fray. But language isn’t always so neat. One early sense of fray that existed in the 1400s, but which has since fallen out of use, meant “to bruise” (as in, with our strokes we shall fray him ). In a translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses dating from the 1500s, this very same sense in a different context is used to mean “deflower” (deprive of virginity). Can we connect the dots from rub to bruise to deflower? Therein lies the rub.
- "[O]nce more he set to work on the laborious task of fraying through his ropes."-John Russell Fearn and Philip Harbottle Liquid Death and Other Stories (2002)
- "The heat and hunger frayed men's tempers."-Colin Falconer When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra (2000)
- "Tempers fray and arguments flare as motorists exchange expletives over the last parking space."-Andrew Holmes and Dan Wilson Pains in Public: 50 People Most Likely to Drive You Completely Nuts! (2004)
Related Words for fraymelee, fracas, unravel, erode, frazzle, disturbance, riot, combat, clash, rumble, brawl, engagement, ruckus, scuffle, affray, contest, rumpus, broil, quarrel, brouhaha
Examples from the Web for fray
Contemporary Examples of fray
Abramson, biting her tongue, was widely portrayed in rival outlets as classily above the fray.The Bloodiest Media Coups of 2014
December 22, 2014
Many more German divisions would enter the fray over the next few days.Hitler’s Hail Mary
James A. Warren
December 20, 2014
It is not at all hard to anticipate additional forces—Turkmens and others—joining the fray in the future.The Nuclear Deal That Iran’s Regime Fears Most
November 22, 2014
As is often the case when the letter and the spirit of the law begin to fray, legal creativity gets called upon to mend them.Catholic University’s Harvey Milk Ban Reflects A Church In Transition
October 3, 2014
As soon as the government announced the sad story, for example, conspiracy theorists jumped into the fray.Measles Vaccine Mix-Up Kills Dozens of Syrian Children
September 18, 2014
Historical Examples of fray
It is the newspaper man's instinct to be in the center of the fray.In the Midst of Alarms
"They are paying themselves for the mules and horses," said Fray Henriques with a shrug.
Then she fell to thinking how bravely he had borne him in that fray.
Like all these ladies, she was delightedly preparing for the fray.
Eleven Indians were killed in this fray, and five were taken captive.King Philip
John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott
- a noisy quarrel
- a fight or brawl
- an archaic word for fright
- (tr) to frighten
Word Origin for fray
- to wear or cause to wear away into tatters or loose threads, esp at an edge or end
- to make or become strained or irritated
- to rub or chafe (another object) or (of two objects) to rub against one another
- a frayed place, as in cloth
Word Origin for fray
see enter the lists (fray).