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Frills on the dresses of flamenco dancers.
Lizard with a cartilaginous frill (Chlamydosaurus kingii).
Dinosaur with a bony frill (Chasmosaurus sp.).

Etymology 1[edit]

Of uncertain origin.


frill (plural frills)

  1. A strip of pleated fabric or paper used as decoration or trim.
    Synonyms: flounce, furbelow, ruffle
    • 1777, Samuel Jackson Pratt (as Courtney Melmoth), Liberal Opinions, upon Animals, Man, and Providence, London: G. Robinson and J. Bew, Volume 5, Chapter 114, p. 163,[2]
      [...] one of her husband Jeffery’s shirts (with frills to the bosom) [...]
    • 1847 January – 1848 July, William Makepeace Thackeray, “In which Captain Dobbin Acts as the Messenger of Hymen”, in Vanity Fair [], London: Bradbury and Evans [], published 1848, →OCLC, page 172:
      His face had fallen in, and was unshorn; his frill and neckcloth hung limp under his bagging waistcoat.
    • 1977, Agatha Christie, chapter 4, in An Autobiography, part II, London: Collins, →ISBN:
      Mind you, clothes were clothes in those days. [...] Frills, ruffles, flounces, lace, complicated seams and gores: not only did they sweep the ground and have to be held up in one hand elegantly as you walked along, but they had little capes or coats or feather boas.
  2. (figurative) A substance or material on the edge of something, resembling such a strip of fabric.
  3. (photography) A wrinkled edge to a film.
  4. (figurative) Something extraneous or not essential; something purely for show or effect; a luxury.
    • 1922, F[rancis] Scott Fitzgerald, “A Matter of Æsthetics”, in The Beautiful and Damned, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, →OCLC, book 3, page 381:
      My name is Sammy Carleton. Not ‘Mr.’ Carleton, but just plain Sammy. I’m a regular no-nonsense man with no fancy frills about me. I want you to call me Sammy.
    • 1985, Margaret Atwood, chapter 35, in The Handmaid's Tale, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, →ISBN, part 12, page 237:
      Falling in love, I said. Falling into it, we all did then, one way or another. How could he have made such light of it? Sneered even. As if it was trivial for us, a frill, a whim.
    • 1989, John Irving, chapter 2, in A Prayer for Owen Meany[5], Toronto: Vintage Canada, published 2009, page 91:
      Torontonians clutter their brick and stone houses with too much trim, or with window trim and shutters—and they also carve their shutters with hearts or maple leaves—but the snow conceals these frills;
  5. (zoology) The relatively extensive margin seen on the back of the heads of reptiles, with either a bony support or a cartilaginous one.
    Synonym: neck frill
    • 1943, Xavier Herbert, chapter 14, in Capricornia[6], New York: D. Appleton-Century, page 227:
      A large admiral lizard leapt up on a rail, stood on hind legs with fore legs raised like hands and watched for a moment [...], then loped down the cess-path with arms swinging and iridescent frill flying out like a cape [...]
    • 1997, Richard Flanagan, chapter 54, in The Sound of One Hand Clapping, New York: Grove Press:
      She reminded Bojan of a desert lizard throwing up its frill to frighten predators.
Derived terms[edit]
See also[edit]


frill (third-person singular simple present frills, present participle frilling, simple past and past participle frilled)

  1. (transitive) To make into a frill.
  2. (intransitive) To become wrinkled.
  3. (transitive) To provide or decorate with a frill or frills; to turn back in crimped plaits.
    • 1766, [Oliver Goldsmith], “The Family Still Resolve to Hold Up Their Heads”, in The Vicar of Wakefield: [], volume I, Salisbury, Wiltshire: [] B. Collins, for F[rancis] Newbery, [], →OCLC; reprinted London: Elliot Stock, 1885, →OCLC, page 107:
      And I will be bold to ſay my two girls have had a pretty good education, and capacity, [...] they underſtand their needle, breadſtitch, croſs and change, and all manner of plain-work; they can pink, point, and frill; [...]
    • 1863, Charles Dickens, Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings, Chapter 4, in All the Year Round, Volume 10, Extra Christmas Number, 3 December, 1863, p. 35,[7]
      Mrs. Sandham, formerly Kate Barford, is working at a baby’s frock, and asking now and then the advice of her sister, who is frilling a little cap.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Old French friller.


frill (third-person singular simple present frills, present participle frilling, simple past and past participle frilled)

  1. (intransitive, obsolete, falconry) To shake or shiver as with cold (with reference to a hawk).[1]
  2. (intransitive, obsolete, falconry) To cry (with reference to a bird of prey).
    • 1688, Randle Holme, The Academy of Armory, Chester: for the author, Book 2, Chapter 13, “Of the Voices of Birds,” p. 310,[8]
      The Eagle Frilleth, or Scriketh
      The Hawk, as Falcon, Gawshawk, and all such Birds of Prey, cryeth, peepeth, or frilleth.


  1. ^ Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, London: W. Strahan, Volume 1, 1755.[1]