Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A rush basket for holding fruit, especially dried fruit.
  • noun The quantity of fruit, such as raisins or figs, that such a basket can hold.
  • adjective Physically weak or delicate: synonym: weak.
  • adjective Easily broken or destroyed; fragile.
  • adjective Not strong or substantial; slight.
  • adjective Easily led astray; morally weak.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To make frail.
  • noun A wooden carrier or crate used by glaziers to carry sheets of glass.
  • noun A flexible basket made of rushes, and used, especially in commerce, for containing fruits, particularly dried fruits, as dates, figs, or raisins.
  • noun [Here is] a frail of figs, which I send to yourself (in the barrel of raisins).
  • noun A rush used for weaving baskets.
  • noun A certain quantity of raisins, about 75 pounds, contained in a frail.
  • Easily broken or destroyed: fragile; hence, weak in any way; likely to fail and decay; perishable; infirm in constitution or condition.
  • Specifically, weak in moral principle or resolution; not strong to resist temptation to evil; so weak as to be in danger of falling, or to have fallen, from virtue; of infirm virtue.
  • Weak-minded.
  • Tender in sentiment.
  • Synonyms Fragile, Frail (see fragile); brittle, slight.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Easily broken; fragile; not firm or durable; liable to fail and perish; easily destroyed; not tenacious of life; weak; infirm.
  • adjective obsolete Tender.
  • adjective Liable to fall from virtue or be led into sin; not strong against temptation; weak in resolution; also, unchaste; -- often applied to fallen women.
  • noun A basket made of rushes, used chiefly for containing figs and raisins.
  • noun The quantity of raisins -- about thirty-two, fifty-six, or seventy-five pounds, -- contained in a frail.
  • noun A rush for weaving baskets.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Easily broken; mentally or physically fragile; not firm or durable; liable to fail and perish; easily destroyed; not tenacious of life; weak; infirm.
  • adjective Liable to fall from virtue or be led into sin; not strong against temptation; weak in resolution; unchaste.
  • noun A basket made of rushes, used chiefly for containing figs and raisins.
  • noun The quantity of raisins contained in a frail.
  • noun A rush for weaving baskets.
  • noun dated, slang A girl.
  • verb To play a stringed instrument, usually a banjo, by picking with the back of a fingernail.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective physically weak
  • adjective easily broken or damaged or destroyed
  • noun the weight of a frail (basket) full of raisins or figs; between 50 and 75 pounds
  • adjective wanting in moral strength, courage, or will; having the attributes of man as opposed to e.g. divine beings
  • noun a basket for holding dried fruit (especially raisins or figs)

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English fraiel, from Old French.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English frele, from Old French, from Latin fragilis, from frangere, frag-, to break; see bhreg- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French fraile, from Latin fragilis. Cognate to fraction, fracture, and fragile.

Examples

Comments

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  • Cab Calloway uses this 1930s Harlem slang word meaning "woman" in his song Minnie the Moocher.

    "Folks, now here's the story 'bout Minnie the Moocher,

    She was a red-hot hootchie-cootcher,

    She was the roughest, toughest frail,

    But Minnie had a heart as big as a whale."

    July 11, 2008

  • Days and months never take their time.

    The four seasons keep bustling each other

    away. Cold winds churn lifeless branches.

    Fallen leaves cover long paths. We're frail,

    crumbling more with each turning year.

    Our temples turn white early, and once

    your hair flaunts that bleached streamer,

    the road ahead starts closing steadily in.

    - T'ao Ch'ien, 'Untitled', translator unknown.

    November 9, 2008

  • Dylan Thomas uses this, presumably in the sense of "a container that is usually woven and has handles," in "Old Garbo" in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog:

    "I made my way through the crowds: the Valley men, up for the football; the country shoppers; the window-gazers; the silent, shabby men at the corners of the packed streets, standing in isolation in the rain; the press of mothers and prams; old women in black, brooched dresses carrying frails; smart girls in shining mackintoshes and splashed stockings; little dandy lascars, bewildered by the weather; business men with wet spats; through a mushroom forest of umbrellas; and all the time I thought of the paragraphs I would never write. I'll put you all in a story by and by." (pp 88-89 of the New Directions Paperbook edition)

    December 9, 2008

  • To play a 5-string open-backed banjo with alternating down-strokes of a single fingernail and thumb-strokes on the short 5th drone string. A form of the old-time clawhammer banjo-picking style that differs substantially from the Scruggs or bluegrass style that uses three fingers up-picking the strings with rolls and other patterns in conjunction with the thumb stroke on the short 5th drone string.

    February 24, 2011