1560, "sudden change of mind, whim", of uncertain origin. Probably from a dialectal word related to Middle English frekynge (“capricious behaviour; whims”) and Middle English friken, frikien (“to move briskly or nimbly”), from Old English frician (“to leap, dance”), or Middle English frek (“insolent, daring”), from Old English frec (“desirous, greedy, eager, bold, daring”), from Proto-Germanic *frekaz, *frakaz (“hard, efficient, greedy, bold, audacious”) (in which case, it would be related to the noun under Etymology 2). Compare Old High German freh (“eager”), Old English frēcne (“dangerous, daring, courageous, bold”).
freak (plural freaks)
- A sudden change of mind
- Someone or something that is markedly unusual or unpredictable.
- 1907, Jack London, Before Adam, page 8:
- And I may answer with another question. Why is a two-headed calf? And my own answer to this is that it is a freak.
- 1920, Onnie Warren Smith, Casting tackle and methods, page 67:
- There may be good points about a freak reel, but because it is a freak it will stand little show of even a fair try-out
- 1938, Marian E. Baer, The wonders of water:
- It is a freak that people talk about when they see it. Not everyone calls it by the right name, and few people know how it gets to be what it is. This freak is hail.
- A hippie.
- [1969, Eschholz, Paul A., “Freak compounds for 'argot freaks'”, in American Speech, volume 44, number 4, DOI:10.2307/454691, pages 306–307:
- When long-haired, outlandishly dressed, drug-using hippies pilgrimaged to Haight-Ashbury in the early 1960s, they were quickly dubbed freaks; the pejorative appellation was both obvious and intended. It was not long before freak had become practically synonymous with hippie. It seems, however, that with the acceptance of long hair, the appearance and popularity of some rather bizarre fashions, and the emphasis placed upon "doing one's own thing," freak is no longer burdened with all of its former derogatory associations. Instead […] the word is beginning to acquire a quality which is favorable, glamorous, and somehow even admirable.]
- A drug addict.
- (of a person) A nonconformist, especially in appearance, social behavior, sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or business practices; an oddball, especially in physiology (e.g., "circus freak"); unique, sometimes in a displeasing way.
- (bodybuilding) A person whose physique has grown far beyond the normal limits of muscular development; often a bodybuilder weighing more than 260 pounds (117.934 kilos).
- An enthusiast, or person who has an obsession with, or extreme knowledge of, something.
- [1968, Davis, Fred; Laura Munoz, “Heads and freaks: patterns and meanings of drug use among hippies”, in Journal of Health and Social Behavior, volume 9, number 2, DOI:10.2307/2948334, pages 156–164:
- Anyone […] who seems "hung up" on some idea, activity or interactional disposition, might be called a "freak."]
- Bob's a real video-game freak. He owns every games console of the last ten years.
- (informal, sometimes endearing) A very sexually perverse individual.
- (dated) A streak of colour; variegation.
- (intransitive) To react extremely or irrationally, usually under distress or discomposure.
- 1994, James Earl Hardy, B-Boy Blues: A Seriously Sexy, Fiercely Funny, Black-On-Black Love Story, (Alyson Publishing), page 107
- But after one night turned into five days, I was freaking out. I missed him.
- (transitive) To make greatly distressed and/or a discomposed appearance.
- (slang, transitive, intransitive) To be placed or place someone under the influence of a psychedelic drug, (especially) to experience reality withdrawal, or hallucinations (nightmarish), to behave irrational or unconventional due to drug use.
- (transitive, dated) To streak; to variegate
- 1930, Robert Seymour Bridges, The Testament of Beauty: A Poem in Four Books, (Literary Criticism), page 20
- […] in fine diaper of silver and mother-of-pearl freaking the intense azure; Now scurrying close overhead, wild ink-hued random racers that fling sheeted […]
freak (not comparable)
- Strange, weird, unexpected.
- 2011 April 15, Saj Chowdhury, “Norwich 2 - 1 Nott'm Forest”, in BBC Sport:
- A freak goal gave Forest the lead when a clearance by keeper John Ruddy bounced off Nathan Tyson and flew in.
- freak in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.
- freak in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.
From Middle English freke, freike (“a bold man, warrior, man, creature”), from Old English freca (“a bold man, warrior, hero”), from Proto-Germanic *frekô (“an active or eager man, warrior, wolf”), from *frekaz (“active, bold, desirous, greedy”), from Proto-Indo-European *pereg-, *spereg- (“to shrug, be quick, twitch, splash, blast”). Cognate with Old Norse freki (“greedy or avaricious one, a wolf”), Old High German freh (“eager”), German frech, Old English frēcne (“dangerous, daring, courageous, bold”).
freak (plural freaks)
- A man, particularly a bold, strong, vigorous man.
- (Britain dialectal, Scotland) A fellow; a petulant young man.