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 by onomatopoeia (here, imitating the sound of electric sparks jumping).[1][2]


Prepositional phrase[edit]

on the fritz

  1. (of electrical or mechanical appliances) Out of order; malfunctioning; broken.
    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.
    • 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]