• fraught •
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Laden, having a lot of, heavy or filled (with). 2. Over-wrought, nervous, tense, on the brink of breaking down, as someone nervous and fraught.
Notes: Today's Good Word is an odd little adjective fraught with the common silent GH in English (from a former sound like Scottish or German CH). It is used with the preposition with, as to be fraught with danger. There is no noun or adjective form for this adjective; it is out there all alone. The second meaning suggests that it is being associated with fear and afraid, but that is not what its history tells us.
In Play: That this word lurks about the periphery of the current English vocabulary also contributes toward its slightly pejorative connotation today: "Gildersleeve felt the offer to work on an oil rig too fraught with danger for him." However, this word itself is not pejorative and may be used in quite positive settings: "Francis considered restaurants places fraught with opportunities for fleshly—and fleshy—delights."
Word History: Today's Good Word is solidly English, not borrowed, begged, or stolen. It is the past participle of the Middle English verb, fraughten "to load" and is still used to mean "cargo, freight" in parts of Scotland. It is strictly Germanic, related to Dutch vracht, German Fracht, Danish fragt, and Swedish frakt, all with pretty much the same meanings. Etymologists surmise that it goes back to an Old Germanic derivation fra-, an intensive prefix, + aihtiz "property". If so, the root is the same one that underlies the verb owe, especially the former past participle of that verb, ought. (We hope that Jeremy Busch understands that our write-up of today's Good Word is fraught with gratitude to him for suggesting it.)
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