Printable Version
Pronunciation: fri-bêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Verb

Meaning: 1. [Noun] A trivial, frivolous person or thing, a triviality or triviality itself, nonsense. 2. [Verb, intransitive] To trifle, to fiddle around, waste time, to twiddle your thumbs. 3. [Verb, transitive] To fritter (away), to waste something frivolously.

Notes: A person who fribbles is a fribbler, though the -er suffix isn't really necessary; he or she is also just a fribble. Anything trivial or frivolous is also fribblish, the adjective accompanying today's word. By the way, in the theater this word is used to indicate ad-libbing to cover up lapses of memory, as to fribble your way through a scene.

In Play: Any trifle that is insignificant will pass for a fribble: "Don't worry about that piece of crystal, my dear; it's just a little fribble I picked up at Cartier's last fall." The verb refers to wasting something on unimportant things: "Ty Kuhn fribbled away his fortune on a year-long tour of the posh casinos of Europe and Asia."

Word History: In all probability, fribble was originally a mispronunciation of frivol that stuck. The noun-adjective frivol, whence today's frivolous, was in use by 1470 while fribble first appeared in print in 1627, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Frivol is Latin frivolus "of little value" without its adjective ending, -us. It seems to have been derived from friare "to rub, crumble", also the origin of English friable. Friare comes from a Proto-Indo-European root bhrei- "break, cut", which went into the making of German brechen and its English counterpart, break. French briser "to break" may well have been borrowed from a Germanic language, perhaps from an earlier form of German brechen. (Let's not fribble away the opportunity to thank the venerable "Grogie" of the Alpha Agora for suggesting this very suggestive Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!