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verb (used with object)
  1. to squander or disperse piecemeal; waste little by little (usually followed by away): to fritter away one's money; to fritter away an afternoon.
  2. to break or tear into small pieces or shreds.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to dwindle, shrink, degenerate, etc. (often followed by away): to watch one's fortune fritter away.
  2. to separate or break into fragments: a plastic material having a tendency to fritter.
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  1. a small piece, fragment, or shred.
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Origin of fritter1

1720–30; earlier fitter, derivative of fit (Old English fitt) a part
Related formsfrit·ter·er, nounun·frit·tered, adjective


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1. dissipate, frivol away, idle away.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


British Dictionary definitions for fritter away


verb (tr)
  1. (usually foll by away) to waste or squanderto fritter away time
  2. to break or tear into small pieces; shred
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  1. a small piece; shred
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Derived Formsfritterer, noun

Word Origin

C18: probably from obsolete fitter to break into small pieces, ultimately from Old English fitt a piece


  1. a piece of food, such as apple or clam, that is dipped in batter and fried in deep fat
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Word Origin

C14: from Old French friture, from Latin frictus fried, roasted, from frīgere to fry, parch
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 fritter away



"whittle away," 1728, from fritters "fragment or shred," possibly from a noun sense, but this is not recorded as early as the verb; perhaps an alteration of 16c. fitters "fragments or pieces," perhaps ultimately from Old French fraiture "a breaking," from Latin fractura. Or perhaps from a Germanic source (cf. Middle High German vetze "clothes, rags").

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"fried batter," late 14c., from Old French friture "fritter, pancake, something fried" (12c.), from Late Latin frictura "a frying," from frigere "to roast, fry" (see fry (v.)).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with fritter away

fritter away

Squander or waste little by little; wear down gradually. For example, She frittered away her salary on odds and ends and saved nothing. This expression was first recorded in Alexander Pope's Dunciad (1728): “How prologues into prefaces decay, And these to notes are fritter'd quite away.”

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.