Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
August 19th, 2016
Episode 621 of 903 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 19, 2016 is: fret \FRET\ verb 1 a : to eat or gnaw into : wear, corrode; also : fray b : rub, chafe c : to make by wearing away 2 : to become vexed or worried 3 : agitate, ripple Examples: "You shouldn't fret so much over your wardrobe," Liza said. "You look great no matter what you wear." "Not so long ago independent booksellers fretted about the Nooks and the Kindles and the iPad—digital reading devices. And if that didn't scare them, the trend of reading everything on a phone was worrisome." — Darrell Ehrlick, The Billings (Montana) Gazette, 22 July 2016 Did you know? Since its first use centuries ago, fret has referred to an act of eating, especially when done by animals—in particular, small ones. You might speak, for example, of moths fretting your clothing. Like eat, fret also developed figurative senses to describe actions that corrode or wear away. A river could be said to "fret away" at its banks or something might be said to be "fretted out" with time or age. Fret can also be applied to emotional experiences so that something that "eats away at us" might be said to "fret the heart or mind." This use developed into the specific meaning of "vex" or "worry" with which we often use fret today.