Origin of freak

1555–65; 1965–70 for def 6; perhaps akin to Old English frīcian to dance
Can be confusedfreak phreak

Synonyms for freak



verb (used with object)

to fleck, streak, or variegate: great splashes of color freaking the sky.


a fleck or streak of color.

Origin of freak

apparently introduced by Milton in Lycidas (1637), perhaps as blend of freck to mark with spots (perhaps back formation from freckle) and streak
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for freak

Contemporary Examples of freak

Historical Examples of freak

  • Nothing as to the manners of the times can be inferred from this freak of an individual.

    Old News

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • That is why we feel that Freak Dinners would not even be freakish.

    Alarms and Discursions

    G. K. Chesterton

  • He seems to think that I am a sort of a rara avis, a freak of nature.

  • If she found the man, by some freak of chance, what would she do with him?

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

  • This freak of figure and dress was Thunder-maker, the great Medicine Man of the tribe.

    The Fiery Totem

    Argyll Saxby

British Dictionary definitions for freak




a person, animal, or plant that is abnormal or deformed; monstrosity
  1. an object, event, etc, that is abnormal or extremely unusual
  2. (as modifier)a freak storm
a personal whim or caprice
informal a person who acts or dresses in a markedly unconventional or strange way
informal a person who is obsessed with something specifieda jazz freak


Word Origin for freak

C16: of obscure origin




a fleck or streak of colour


(tr) to streak with colour; variegate

Word Origin for freak

C17: from earlier freaked, probably coined by Milton, based on streak 1 + obsolete freckt freckled; see freckle
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 freak

1560s, "sudden turn of mind," of unknown origin, perhaps related to Old English frician "to dance" (not recorded in Middle English, but the word may have survived in dialect) [OED, Barnhart], or perhaps from Middle English frek "bold, quickly," from Old English frec "greedy, gluttonous" (cf. German frech "bold, impudent").

Sense of "capricious notion" (1560s) and "unusual thing, fancy" (1784) preceded that of "strange or abnormal individual" (first in freak of nature, 1847; cf. Latin lusus naturæ, used in English from 1660s). The sense in health freak, ecology freak, etc. is attested from 1908 (originally Kodak freak, a camera buff). Freak show attested from 1887.


"change, distort," 1911, from freak (n.). Earlier, "to streak or fleck randomly" (1630s). Related: Freaked; freaking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper