frail

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English frele, fraill, from Old French fraile, from Latin fragilis. Cognate to fraction, fracture, and doublet of fragile.

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /fɹeɪl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪl

Adjective[edit]

frail (comparative frailer, superlative frailest)

  1. Easily broken physically; not firm or durable; liable to fail and perish.
    • c. 1587–1588, [Christopher Marlowe], Tamburlaine the Great. [] The First Part [], part 1, 2nd edition, London: [] [R. Robinson for] Richard Iones, [], published 1592, OCLC 932920499; reprinted as Tamburlaine the Great (A Scolar Press Facsimile), Menston, Yorkshire; London: Scolar Press, 1973, →ISBN, Act I, scene i:
      Returne with ſpeed, time paſſeth ſwift away,
      Our life is fraile, and we may dye to day.
    • 1831, John James Audubon, Ornithological Biography: Volume 1, Blue-grey Fly-catcher
      Its nest is composed of the frailest materials, and is light and small in proportion to the size of the bird
  2. Weak; infirm.
    • 1993, John Banville, Ghosts:
      Frail smoke of morning in the air and a sort of muffled hum that is not sound but is not silence either.
    • 1922, Isaac Rosenberg, Dawn
      O as the soft and frail lights break upon your eyelids
  3. Mentally fragile.
  4. Liable to fall from virtue or be led into sin; not strong against temptation; weak in resolution; unchaste.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Noun[edit]

frail (plural frails)

  1. A basket made of rushes, used chiefly to hold figs and raisins.
  2. The quantity of fruit or other items contained in a frail.
  3. A rush for weaving baskets.
  4. (dialectal, obsolete) Synonym of flail.
    • 1948, C. Henry Warren, The English Counties, Essex, Odhams, p. 170:
      The scythe, the sickle and the flail (or "frail", is it is invariably called) - these should surely be incorporated in the county arms, for on their use much of the prosperity of Essex has always rested until now.
  5. (dated, slang) A girl.
    • 1931, Cab Calloway / Irving Mills, ‘Minnie the Moocher’:
      She was the roughest, toughest frail, but Minnie had a heart as big as a whale.
    • 1934, F[rancis] Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night: A Romance, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, OCLC 284462; republished as chapter X, in Malcolm Cowley, editor, Tender is the Night: A Romance [...] With the Author’s Final Revisions, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951, OCLC 849279868, book IV (Escape: 1925–1929), page 238:
      There were five people in the Quirinal bar after dinner, a high-class Italian frail who sat on a stool making persistent conversation against the bartender's bored: “Si … Si … Si,” a light, snobbish Egyptian who was lonely but chary of the woman, and the two Americans.
    • 1939, Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep, Penguin 2011, p. 148:
      ‘She's pickin' 'em tonight, right on the nose,’ he said. ‘That tall black-headed frail.’
    • 1941, Preston Sturges, Sullivan's Travels, published in Five Screenplays, →ISBN, page 77:
      Sullivan, the girl and the butler get to the ground. The girl wears a turtle-neck sweater, a cap slightly sideways, a torn coat, turned-up pants and sneakers.
      SULLIVAN Why don't you go back with the car... You look about as much like a boy as Mae West.
      THE GIRL All right, they'll think I'm your frail.

Verb[edit]

frail (third-person singular simple present frails, present participle frailing, simple past and past participle frailed)

  1. To play a stringed instrument, usually a banjo, by picking with the back of a fingernail.

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Anagrams[edit]