- 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)
Examples from the Web for fraying
Your brother smoked a joint before dinner to calm his fraying nerves.How to Make It Through Thanksgiving Alive
November 26, 2014
Lebanon is fraying at the edges, but for now the center holds.Beirut Letter: In Lebanon, Fighting ISIS With Culture and Satire
September 22, 2014
Peterson is wearing a crisp white-and-blue striped shirt and fraying paisley ascot.Gosta Peterson's Bohemian Rhapsody: Unpacking a Photographer's '60s Secrets
September 10, 2014
Both a social worker and his parents warned the authorities about his fraying mental state.How the Gun Nuts Try to Excuse Away the Santa Barbara Slaughter—and Why They’re All Wrong
May 27, 2014
Some of the breakdown is cultural--a fraying of the basic ties that keep people connected and cared for.When Work Disappears
June 14, 2013
To protect the ends from fraying a scout should know how to "whip" them.Boy Scouts Handbook
Boy Scouts of America
It is a stitch to prevent material from fraying, and is taken on the edge of material.Clothing and Health
To protect the ends from fraying, a scout should know how to whip them.The Boy Patrol on Guard
Edward S. Ellis
I noticed then that he was fraying and twisting a newspaper.Cue for Quiet
Thomas L. Sherred
And for the most part, because of the fraying nature of his present ills, not finding it.The Financier
- a noisy quarrel
- a fight or brawl
- an archaic word for fright
- (tr) to frighten
- 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 and History for fraying
Idioms and Phrases with fraying
see enter the lists (fray).