verb (used with object)

to trim or ornament with a frill or frills.
to form into a frill.

verb (used without object)

Photography. (of an emulsion) to become wrinkled or loose.

Origin of frill

First recorded in 1585–95; origin uncertain
Related formsfrill·er, nounun·frill, verb (used with object) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for frills

Contemporary Examples of frills

Historical Examples of frills

  • Kate shuddered too, and drew the frills closer about her throat.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • Frills are generally attached to them, and give them a pretty finish.

  • How'll seventy-five a week, with costumes of frills and powdered hair, do you?

    Blue-grass and Broadway

    Maria Thompson Daviess

  • She laughed again, and shook all her pretty ribbons and frills.

    Three Margarets

    Laura E. Richards

  • Bettina, bending over her frills, felt a sudden sense of desolation.

    Glory of Youth

    Temple Bailey

British Dictionary definitions for frills



a gathered, ruched, or pleated strip of cloth sewn on at one edge only, as on garments, as ornament, or to give extra body
a ruff of hair or feathers around the neck of a dog or bird or a fold of skin around the neck of a reptile or amphibian
(often capital) a variety of domestic fancy pigeon having a ruff of curled feathers on the chest and cropFull name: oriental frill
photog a wrinkling or loosening of the emulsion at the edges of a negative or print
(often plural) informal a superfluous or pretentious thing or manner; affectationhe made a plain speech with no frills


(tr) to adorn or fit with a frill or frills
to form into a frill or frills
(intr) photog (of an emulsion) to develop a frill
Derived Formsfrilliness, nounfrilly, adjective

Word Origin for frill

C14: perhaps of Flemish 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 frills

"mere embellishments," 1893, often in negative constructions; earlier "affectation of dress or manner" (1845); see frill.



"wavy ornamental edging," 1801 (with a doubtful attestation from 1590s), of uncertain origin despite much speculation [see OED]; figurative sense of "useless ornament" first recorded 1893. The verb meaning "to furnish with a frill" is recorded in 1570s. Related: Frilled.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper