• IPA(key): /fɹeɪl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪl

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English frele, fraill, from Old French fraile, from Latin fragilis. Cognate to fraction, fracture, and doublet of fragile.


frail (comparative frailer, superlative frailest)

  1. Easily broken physically; not firm or durable; liable to fail and perish.
    • c. 1587–1588, [Christopher Marlowe], Tamburlaine the Great. [] The First Part [], 2nd edition, part 1, London: [] [R. Robinson for] Richard Iones, [], published 1592, →OCLC; reprinted as Tamburlaine the Great (A Scolar Press Facsimile), Menston, Yorkshire; London: Scolar Press, 1973, →ISBN, Act I, scene i:
      Returne with ſpeed, time paſſeth ſwift away,
      Our life is fraile, and we may dye to day.
    • 1831, John James Audubon, Ornithological Biography: Volume 1: Blue-grey Fly-catcher:
      Its nest is composed of the frailest materials, and is light and small in proportion to the size of the bird
  2. Weak; infirm.
    • 1993, John Banville, Ghosts:
      Frail smoke of morning in the air and a sort of muffled hum that is not sound but is not silence either.
    • 1922, Isaac Rosenberg, Dawn:
      O as the soft and frail lights break upon your eyelids
  3. (medicine) In an infirm state leading one to be easily subject to disease or other health problems, especially regarding the elderly.
  4. Mentally fragile.
  5. Liable to fall from virtue or be led into sin; not strong against temptation; weak in resolution; unchaste.
Derived termsEdit
Related termsEdit
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


frail (plural frails)

  1. (dated, slang) A girl.
    • 1931, Cab Calloway; Irving Mills, Minnie the Moocher:
      She was the roughest, toughest frail, but Minnie had a heart as big as a whale.
    • 1934, F[rancis] Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night: A Romance, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, →OCLC; republished as chapter X, in Malcolm Cowley, editor, Tender is the Night: A Romance [...] With the Author’s Final Revisions, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951, →OCLC, book IV (Escape: 1925–1929), page 238:
      There were five people in the Quirinal bar after dinner, a high-class Italian frail who sat on a stool making persistent conversation against the bartender's bored: “Si … Si … Si,” a light, snobbish Egyptian who was lonely but chary of the woman, and the two Americans.
    • 1939, Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep, Penguin, published 2011, page 148:
      ‘She's pickin' 'em tonight, right on the nose,’ he said. ‘That tall black-headed frail.’
    • 1941, Preston Sturges, Sullivan's Travels, published in Five Screenplays, →ISBN, page 77:
      Sullivan, the girl and the butler get to the ground. The girl wears a turtle-neck sweater, a cap slightly sideways, a torn coat, turned-up pants and sneakers.
      SULLIVAN Why don't you go back with the car... You look about as much like a boy as Mae West.
      THE GIRL All right, they'll think I'm your frail.


frail (third-person singular simple present frails, present participle frailing, simple past and past participle frailed)

  1. To play a stringed instrument, usually a banjo, by picking with the back of a fingernail.

Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English frayel, from Old French frael, fraiel, of unknown origin; possibly a dissimilatory variant of flael, flaiel (flail).


frail (plural frails)

  1. A basket made of rushes, used chiefly to hold figs and raisins.
  2. The quantity of fruit or other items contained in a frail.
  3. A rush for weaving baskets.

Etymology 3Edit


frail (plural frails)

  1. (dialectal, obsolete) Synonym of flail.
    • 1948, C. Henry Warren, The English Counties, Essex, Odhams, p. 170:
      The scythe, the sickle and the flail (or "frail", is it is invariably called) - these should surely be incorporated in the county arms, for on their use much of the prosperity of Essex has always rested until now.