From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Etymology 1[edit]

From Late Middle English freight, freght, freyght [and other forms], a variant of fraught, fraght (transport of goods or people, usually by water; transportation fee; transportation facilities; cargo or passengers of a ship; (figuratively) burden; ballast of a ship; goods; a charge),[1] from Middle Dutch vracht, vrecht, and Middle Low German vrecht (cargo, freight; transportation fee),[2] from Old Saxon frāht, frēht, from Proto-West Germanic *fra- (from Proto-Germanic *fra- (prefix meaning ‘completely, fully’)) + *aihti (from Proto-Germanic *aihtiz (possessions, property), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₂eyḱ- (to come into possession of, obtain; to own, possess)).

The English word can be analysed as for- +‎ aught, and is a doublet of fraught.


freight (usually uncountable, plural freights)

  1. (uncountable) The transportation of goods (originally by water; now also (chiefly US) by land); also, the hiring of a vehicle or vessel for such transportation.
    • 1719, [Daniel Defoe], The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe; [], London: [] W[illiam] Taylor [], →OCLC, page 372:
      [A]fter ſome Conſideration, that the City of Hamburgh might happen to be as good a Market for our Goods as London, we all took Freight with him, and having put my Goods on board, it was moſt natural for me to put my Steward on board to take care of them, []
      That is, arranged for the transportation of themselves and their goods.
  2. (uncountable) Goods or items in transport; cargo, luggage.
    The freight shifted and the trailer turned over on the highway.
    • 1625 January 25, John Donne, “A Sermon Preached at St. Dunstans January 15. 1625 [Julian calendar]. The First Sermon after Our Dispersion, by the Sickness.”, in XXVI. Sermons (Never before Publish’d) Preached by that Learned and Reverend Divine John Donne, [], London: [] Thomas Newcomb, [], published 1661, →OCLC, page 295:
      Diſcretion is the ballaſt of our Ship, that carries us ſteady; but Zeal is the very Fraight, the Cargaſon, the Merchandiſe it ſelf, which enriches us in the land of the living; and this was our caſe, we were all come to eſteem our Ballaſt more then our Fraight, our Diſcretion more then our Zeal; we had more care to pleaſe great men then God; more conſideration of an imaginary change of times, then of unchangeable eternity it ſelf.
    • 2019 October, “South Wales Open Access Bid”, in Modern Railways, Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allen Publishing, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 15:
      Space for carrying light freight also features in Grand Union's proposal. The company says it is working with partners at Intercity Railfreight on the logistics of this, with refrigerated space to be available for movement of urgent NHS biological materials. Initially freight would be carried in the DVTs of the Class 91/Mk 4 sets, while on the Class 802s the kitchen/buffet would be located towards the centre of the train to make space for freight.
  3. (countable) Payment for transportation.
    The freight was more expensive for cars than for coal.
    • 1719, [Daniel Defoe], The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe; [], London: [] W[illiam] Taylor [], →OCLC, page 292:
      [I]f I would let the ſame Men who were in the Ship navigate her, he would hire the Ship to go to Japan, and would ſend them from thence to the Philippine Iſlands with another Loading, which he would pay the Freight of, before they went from Japan; and that at their Return, he would buy the Ship: []
    • 1881 February 26, [John] Lowell, judge of the Circuit Court, District of Massachusetts, “Taylor and Others v. Insurance Company of North America”, in Peyton Boyle, editor, The Federal Reporter. [] (1st Series), volume 6, St. Paul, Minn: West Publishing Company, →OCLC, page 412:
      Had the ship earned her freight? To earn freight there must, of course, be either a right delivery, or a due and proper offer to deliver the goods to the consignees.
  4. (figurative)
    1. (countable) A burden, a load.
      • 1697, Virgil, “The Second Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 89, lines 595–599:
        Thus Apple Trees, whoſe Trunks are ſtrong to bear
        Their ſpreading Boughs, exert themſelves in Air:
        Want no supply, but ſtand ſecure alone,
        Not truſting foreign Forces, but their own:
        'Till with the ruddy freight the bending Branches groan.
      • 1799–1805 (dates written), William Wordsworth, “Book VII. Residence in London.”, in The Prelude, or Growth of a Poet’s Mind; an Autobiographical Poem, London: Edward Moxon, [], published 1850, →OCLC, page 180:
        Now homeward through the thickening hubbub, where
        See, among less distinguishable shapes,
        [] the stately and slow-moving Turk,
        With freight of slippers piled beneath his arm!
    2. (specifically, uncountable) Cultural or emotional associations.
      • 2007, Barry Richards, “Poor Emotional Governance”, in Emotional Governance: Politics, Media and Terror, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, →DOI, →ISBN, part III (The Search for Connection), page 116:
        Ideally, those engaged in contributing to that discourse would have some awareness of the emotional forces which may be called into play by the simple appearance in print or a broadcast clip of a phrase built around the word 'freedom'. This may seem to be a quite unrealistic aim, until we note that some contributors to the emotional public sphere – advertising creatives – are very aware of the emotional freight that simple words may carry, and seek to direct that freight to particular destinations (with particular behavioural consequences).
  5. (countable, originally US, rail transport) Short for freight train.
    They shipped it ordinary freight to spare the expense.
    • 1899, Booth Tarkington, “The Court-house Bell”, in The Gentleman from Indiana, New York, N.Y.: Doubleday & McClure Co., published 1900, →OCLC, page 174:
      The track, raggedly defined in trampled loam and muddy furrow, bent in a direction which indicated that its terminus might be the switch where the empty cars had stood last night, waiting for the one-o'clock freight.
    • 1961 July, J. Geoffrey Todd, “Impressions of Railroading in the United States: Part Two”, in Trains Illustrated, London: Ian Allan Publishing, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 423:
      Two westbound freights were in the vicinity and the operator was kept busy passing them radio messages with the latest information on the late running of the streamliners, to allow the enginemen to keep moving until the last possible minute before they had to sidetrack their trains to let the fast trains overtake.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Etymology 2[edit]

The verb is derived from Late Middle English freighten, freghten, a variant of fraughten, fraghten (to load (a ship with cargo or passengers); to hire (a ship) for transporting goods; to provide fully (with goods, money, etc.); to stow away),[3] and then either:

The adjective is:


freight (third-person singular simple present freights, present participle freighting, simple past and past participle freighted)

  1. (transitive)
    1. To load (a vehicle or vessel) with freight (cargo); also, to hire or rent out (a vehicle or vessel) to carry cargo or passengers.
      • 1651, Thomas Hobbes, “Of Systemes Subject, Politicall, and Private”, in Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill, London: [] [William Wilson] for Andrew Crooke, [], →OCLC, 2nd part (Of Common-wealth), page 119:
        It is true, there be few Merchants, that with the Merchandiſe they buy at home, can fraight a Ship, to export it; or with that they buy abroad, to bring it home; and have therefore need to joyn together in one Society; []
      • 1684, Abraham Liset, “Observations Concerning Factors”, in Amphithalami, or, The Accomptants Closet, Being an Abridgment of Merchants-accounts Kept by Debitors and Creditors; [] , London: [] Miles Flesher, for Robert Horne [], →OCLC, 2nd Part (Litera B), page 27:
        If a Factor do receive a ſum of Mony of the owner of a Ship, in conſideration that he freighteth the ſaid Ship for a Voyage, promiſing to repay the ſaid Mony at the return of the ſaid Voyage; if the ſaid Factor hath freighted this Ship for another mans Account, this Merchant is to have the benefit of this Mony during the time; []
      • 1829, [Edward Bulwer-Lytton], “In which the Hero Shews Decision on More Points than One—More of Isora’s Character is Developed”, in Devereux. A Tale. [] , volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, book III, page 83:
        [T]hey who freight their wealth upon a hundred vessels are more liable, Morton, are they not, to the peril of the winds and waves, than they who venture it only upon one?
    2. To transport (goods).
    3. (by extension) To load or store (goods, etc.).
      • 1783 October, Castalic [pseudonym], “The Essayist. Number XVI. Sensibility, a Rhapsody.”, in The Lady’s Magazine; or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex. Appropriated Solely to Their Use and Amusement, volume XIV, London: [] G[eorge] Robinson, [], →OCLC, page 546, column 1:
        [W]hat though it is thou [i.e., sensibility] that rendereſt anguiſh more frequent, that filleſt the eye with the ſympathetic tear! yet is it not thou that ſwelleſt it with the tear of joy, and freighteſt the heart beyond the power of utterance,— []
      • 1829, [Edward Bulwer-Lytton], “A Change of Prospects—a New Insight into the Character of the Hero—a Conference between Two Brothers”, in Devereux. A Tale. [] , volume I, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, book I, page 63:
        Fortune freights not your channel with her hoarded stores, and Pleasure ventures not her silken sails upon your tide; []
      • 1883 December, [Henry] Austin Dobson, “The Ballad of the Judgment of Paris”, in [W. H. Forman], editor, The Manhattan: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine, volume II, number VI, New York, N.Y.: The Manhattan Magazine Company, →OCLC, stanza 3, page 539:
        Love, that fulfilleth his heart with glee,
        Love, that freighteth his breast with sighs,
        Love that must madden both you and me:— []
    4. (figurative) To carry (something) as if it is a burden or load.
  2. (intransitive, US, also figurative) Chiefly followed by up: to carry as part of a cargo.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]


freight (comparative more freight, superlative most freight)

  1. (obsolete) Freighted; laden.
    • 1659, T[itus] Livius [i.e., Livy], “[Book XXIX]”, in Philemon Holland, transl., The Romane Historie [], London: [] W. Hunt, for George Sawbridge, [], →OCLC, page 575:
      [H]is ſouldiers, ſeeing great prizes brought out of the enemies Land, and every ſhip freight therewith; were mightily incenſed and ſet on fire with a burning deſire to be tranſported over thither with all ſpeed poſſible.


  1. ^ fraught, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ freight, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2021; “freight, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. 3.0 3.1 fraughten, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ Compare “freight, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2020; “freight, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  5. ^ -en, suf.(3)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  6. ^ † freight, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2021.

Further reading[edit]