on the fritz

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Unknown. Attested from 1902, originally meaning “in a bad way” or “in bad condition”, malfunctioning of an appliance. Perhaps from German name. Fritz, or onomatopoeic (here, imitating the sound of electric sparks jumping).[1]


Prepositional phrase[edit]

on the fritz

  1. (of electrical or mechanical appliances, idiomatic, US) Out of order; malfunctioning; broken.
    Synonyms: fritzed, (Australian) bung, (UK, Australia) on the blink, (offensive) spaz
    I'd record it, but my tape deck is on the fritz again.
    My washing machine has gone on the fritz, and I have a load of muddy clothes to clean.
    • 2000 November 5, Bob Morris, “Don't Spill It on Me”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      Actually, no one had noticed, from what I could tell, though I was alarmed to hear about it. Why was our pilot telling us about questionable brakes and a computer on the fritz when we still had a landing to worry about five hours ahead?
    • 2004, Lisa Marie Rice, Woman On the Run, page 32:
      No ′40s movie heroine worth the name would have a house that let in gusts of gelid air, had a heating system that went on the fritz constantly and leaked.
    • 2006, Nero Blanc, Death on the Diagonal, page 191:
      “Or your cell-phone reception went on the fritz. We know how often that happens.”
    • 2010, Ralph Bowersox, Ralph's True Stories: Entertaining Chronicles of Life in Clarion County, Pennsylvania, Late 1920s through the Present Day, page 185:
      Some time ago, a tenant called me and said her refrigerator was on the fritz. I had a spare, so I took it down to her and exchanged it for her old one.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Michael Quinion (1996–2024) “On the fritz”, in World Wide Words.