1 [fret]
verb (used without object), fretted, fretting.
to feel or express worry, annoyance, discontent, or the like: Fretting about the lost ring isn't going to help.
to cause corrosion; gnaw into something: acids that fret at the strongest metals.
to make a way by gnawing, corrosion, wearing away, etc.: The river frets at its banks until a new channel is formed.
to become eaten, worn, or corroded (often followed by away ): Limestone slowly frets away under pounding by the wind and rain.
to move in agitation or commotion, as water: water fretting over the stones of a brook.
verb (used with object), fretted, fretting.
to torment; irritate, annoy, or vex: You mustn't fret yourself about that.
to wear away or consume by gnawing, friction, rust, corrosives, etc.: the ocean fretting its shores.
to form or make by wearing away a substance: The river had fretted an underground passage.
to agitate (water): Strong winds were fretting the channel.
an irritated state of mind; annoyance; vexation.
erosion; corrosion; gnawing.
a worn or eroded place.

before 900; Middle English freten, Old English fretan to eat up, consume; cognate with Old Saxon fretan, Gothic fraitan, Old High German frezzan (German fressen)

fretter, noun

1. fume, rage. 6. worry, harass, goad, tease. 7. erode, gnaw, corrode, abrade, grind, rub, rust. 10. harassment, agitation, worry. Unabridged


2 [fret]
an interlaced, angular design; fretwork.
an angular design of bands within a border.
Heraldry. a charge composed of two diagonal strips interlacing with and crossing at the center of a mascle.
a piece of decoratively pierced work placed in a clock case to deaden the sound of the mechanism.
verb (used with object), fretted, fretting.
to ornament with a fret or fretwork.

1350–1400; Middle English frette < ?; compare Middle French frete trellis-work, Old English fretwian, variant of frætwian to adorn

fretless, adjective


3 [fret]
any of the ridges of wood, metal, or string, set across the fingerboard of a guitar, lute, or similar instrument, which help the fingers to stop the strings at the correct points.
verb (used with object), fretted, fretting.
to provide with frets.

1490–1500; origin uncertain

fretless, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
fret1 (frɛt)
vb , frets, fretting, fretted
1.  to distress or be distressed; worry
2.  to rub or wear away
3.  to irritate or be irritated; feel or give annoyance or vexation
4.  to eat away or be eaten away by chemical action; corrode
5.  (intr) (of a road surface) to become loose so that potholes develop; scab
6.  to agitate (water) or (of water) to be agitated
7.  (tr) to make by wearing away; erode
8.  a state of irritation or anxiety
9.  the result of fretting; corrosion
10.  a hole or channel caused by fretting
[Old English fretan to eat; related to Old High German frezzan, Gothic fraitan, Latin peredere]

fret2 (frɛt)
1.  a repetitive geometrical figure, esp one used as an ornamental border
2.  such a pattern made in relief and with numerous small openings; fretwork
3.  heraldry a charge on a shield consisting of a mascle crossed by a saltire
vb , frets, fretting, fretted
4.  (tr) to ornament with fret or fretwork
[C14: from Old French frete interlaced design used on a shield, probably of Germanic origin]

fret3 (frɛt)
any of several small metal bars set across the fingerboard of a musical instrument of the lute, guitar, or viol family at various points along its length so as to produce the desired notes when the strings are stopped by the fingers
[C16: of unknown origin]

fret4 (frɛt)
short for sea fret

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. fretan "eat, devour" (in O.E., used of monsters and Vikings; in M.E., used of animals' eating), from P.Gmc. compound *fra- "for-" + *etan "to eat" (cf. Du. vreton, O.H.G. freggan, Ger. fressen, Goth. fraitan). Figurative sense of "irritate, worry, eat one's heart out" is c.1200. Modern German still
distinguishes essen for humans and fressen for animals. Related: Fretted; fretting.

"ornamental interlaced pattern," late 14c., from O.Fr. frete "interlaced work, trellis work," probably from Frank. *fetur (cf. O.E. fetor, O.H.G. feggara "fetter") perhaps from notion of "decorative anklet," or of materials "bound" together. The other noun, "ridge on the fingerboard of a guitar," is
c.1500 of unknown origin but possibly another sense of O.Fr. frete.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


in decorative art and architecture, any one of several types of running or repeated ornament, consisting of lengths of straight lines or narrow bands, usually connected and at right angles to each other in T, L, or square-cornered G shapes, so arranged that the spaces between the lines or bands are approximately equal to the width of the bands. Occasionally the system is arranged so that the lines intersect or interlace, as in the common swastika fret. Because the fret is one of the simplest and most natural of decorative forms, it is one of the most widely spread, found from early times in most art forms and on all continents. Thus, it was a favourite decoration, during and after the 4th dynasty, for the ceilings of tombs in Egypt, where in later examples it was combined with rosettes, scarabs, and the lotus into patterns of great richness.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
And if you can't make it over the holiday, don't fret.
It seems my fate to fret away my years in this country.
They fret, and out of their own weakness are in agony, lest those divisions and
  subdivisions will undo us.
We fret about airport scanners, power lines, cellphones and even microwaves.
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