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

  • transitive v. To cause to be uneasy; vex: "fret thy soul with crosses and with cares” ( Edmund Spenser).
  • transitive v. To gnaw or wear away; erode.
  • transitive v. To produce a hole or worn spot in; corrode. See Synonyms at chafe.
  • transitive v. To form (a passage or channel) by erosion.
  • transitive v. To disturb the surface of (water or a stream); agitate.
  • intransitive v. To be vexed or troubled; worry. See Synonyms at brood.
  • intransitive v. To be worn or eaten away; become corroded.
  • intransitive v. To move agitatedly.
  • intransitive v. To gnaw with the teeth in the manner of a rodent.
  • n. The act or an instance of fretting.
  • n. A hole or worn spot made by abrasion or erosion.
  • n. Irritation of mind; agitation.
  • n. One of several ridges set across the fingerboard of a stringed instrument, such as a guitar.
  • transitive v. To provide with frets.
  • transitive v. To press (the strings of an instrument) against the frets.
  • n. An ornamental design consisting of repeated and symmetrical geometric figures, often in relief, contained within a band or border. Also called key pattern.
  • n. A headdress, worn by women of the Middle Ages, consisting of interlaced wire.
  • transitive v. To provide with such a design or headdress.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. One of the pieces of metal/wood/plastic across the neck of a guitar or other musical instrument that marks note positions for fingering.
  • n. An ornamental pattern consisting of repeated vertical and horizontal lines (often in relief).
  • n. A strait; channel.
  • n. A fog or mist at sea or coming inland from the sea
  • v. To devour, consume; eat.
  • v. To gnaw, consume, eat away.
  • v. To cut through with fretsaw, create fretwork.
  • v. To chafe or irritate; to worry.
  • v. To worry or be anxious.
  • v. To press down the string behind a fret.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. See 1st frith.
  • n. The agitation of the surface of a fluid by fermentation or other cause; a rippling on the surface of water.
  • n. Agitation of mind marked by complaint and impatience; disturbance of temper; irritation.
  • n. Herpes; tetter.
  • n. The worn sides of river banks, where ores, or stones containing them, accumulate by being washed down from the hills, and thus indicate to the miners the locality of the veins.
  • n. Ornamental work in relief, as carving or embossing. See fretwork.
  • n. An ornament consisting of small fillets or slats intersecting each other or bent at right angles, as in classical designs, or at oblique angles, as often in Oriental art.
  • n. The reticulated headdress or net, made of gold or silver wire, in which ladies in the Middle Ages confined their hair.
  • n. A saltire interlaced with a mascle.
  • n. A short piece of wire, or other material fixed across the finger board of a guitar or a similar instrument, to indicate where the finger is to be placed.
  • intransitive v. To be worn away; to chafe; to fray.
  • intransitive v. To eat in; to make way by corrosion.
  • intransitive v. To be agitated; to be in violent commotion; to rankle.
  • intransitive v. To be vexed; to be chafed or irritated; to be angry; to utter peevish expressions.
  • transitive v. To devour.
  • transitive v. To rub; to wear away by friction; to chafe; to gall; hence, to eat away; to gnaw
  • transitive v. To impair; to wear away; to diminish.
  • transitive v. To make rough, agitate, or disturb; to cause to ripple.
  • transitive v. To tease; to irritate; to vex.
  • transitive v. To ornament with raised work; to variegate; to diversify.
  • transitive v. To furnish with frets, as an instrument of music.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To eat up; devour.
  • To eat into; gnaw; corrode.
  • To wear away; fray; rub; chafe: as, to fret cloth by friction; to fret the skin.
  • To make rough; cause to ripple; disturb; agitate: as, to fret the surface of water.
  • To chafe painfully or vexatiously; irritate; worry; gall.
  • To be worn away, as by friction; become frayed or chafed; be wearing out or wasting.
  • To make way by attrition or corrosion.
  • To be worried; give way to chafed or irritated feelings; speak peevishly and complainingly.
  • To be in commotion or agitation, as water; boil, bubble, or work as in fermentation; hence, to work as angry feelings; rankle.
  • To adorn; ornament; set off.
  • To ornament with or as if with frets.
  • To make a fret of.
  • To fasten; bind.
  • To strengthen; fill.
  • To provide with frets.
  • Punningly, in Shakspere, to worry as if by acting upon the frets of.
  • Same as freight.
  • To form by fretting or corrosion.
  • n. A wearing away, abrasion, or corrosion.
  • n. A place worn or abraded, as by friction.
  • n. In med.: Chafing, as in the folds of the skin of fat children.
  • n. Herpes; tetter.
  • n. In mining, the worn side of a river-bank, where ores, or stones containing them, accumulate by being washed down the hills, and thus indicate to the miner the locality of the veins.
  • n. A state of chafing or irritation, as of the mind, temper, etc.; vexation; anger: as, he keeps himself in a continual fret.
  • n. The agitation of the surface of a fluid, as when fermenting or boiling; a rippling on the surface, as of water; a state of ebullition or effervescence, as of wine.
  • n. A flurry.
  • n. A glass composition, composed of silica, lime, soda, borax, and lead, used as a glaze by potters.
  • n. A caul of silver or gold wire, sometimes ornamented with precious stones, worn by ladies in the middle ages.
  • n. A piece of interlaced or perforated ornamental work.
  • n. A kind of ornament much employed in Grecian art and in sundry modifications common in various other styles.
  • n. In heraldry, a charge consisting of two bendlets placed in saltier and interlaced with a mascle. Also called true-lover's knot and Harrington knot.
  • n. In musical instruments of the lute and viol class, a small ridge of wood, ivory, metal, or other material, set across the finger-board, and serving as a fixed point for stopping or shortening the strings in playing, the fingers being applied just above it so as to press the string against it.
  • n. A frith.

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

  • n. a spot that has been worn away by abrasion or erosion
  • v. worry unnecessarily or excessively
  • n. agitation resulting from active worry
  • v. carve a pattern into
  • v. gnaw into; make resentful or angry
  • v. remove soil or rock
  • v. cause annoyance in
  • v. cause friction
  • v. decorate with an interlaced design
  • n. a small bar of metal across the fingerboard of a musical instrument; when the string is stopped by a finger at the metal bar it will produce a note of the desired pitch
  • v. provide (a musical instrument) with frets
  • v. be too tight; rub or press
  • v. be agitated or irritated
  • v. become or make sore by or as if by rubbing
  • n. an ornamental pattern consisting of repeated vertical and horizontal lines (often in relief)
  • v. wear away or erode


Middle English freten, from Old English fretan, to devour; see ed- in Indo-European roots.
Origin unknown.
Middle English, interlaced work, from Old French frete.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English freten, from Old English fretan ("to eat up, devour"), from Proto-Germanic *fraetanan (“to devour”), corresponding to for- +‎ eat. Cognate with Dutch vreten ("to devour, hog, wolf"), Low German freten ("to eat up"), German fressen ("to devour, gobble up, guzzle"), Danish fråse ("to gorge"), Swedish fräta ("to eat away, corrode, fret"), Gothic 𐍆𐍂𐌰𐌹𐍄𐌰𐌽 (fraitan), 𐍆𐍂𐌰-𐌹𐍄𐌰𐌽 (fra-itan, "to devour"). (Wiktionary)
Unknown (Wiktionary)
From Latin fretum ("strait, channel") (Wiktionary)
Unknown (Wiktionary)



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  • I really must file down the ends of the 5th fret on my guitar - Lord!, the sharp ends of that square inlaid wire rip the devil out of my sinister hand and fingers.

    March 18, 2011

  • Evil? Obviously you need to get a better set o' fretters.

    Try banana.

    March 18, 2011

  • Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; DO NOT FRET — it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. Psalm 37:8-9.

    March 18, 2011

  • Citation on termagant.

    September 18, 2008