Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Frenetic

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is frenetic. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

Frenetic means “marked by excitement, disorder, or anxiety-driven activity.” It is synonymous with frenzied and frantic, both of which are also related etymologically to frenetic.

// The celebration was noisy and frenetic, lasting into the wee hours of morning.

FRENETIC in Context

“His sophomore and junior soccer seasons were jammed together due to the pandemic, playing in the spring and fall only months apart during a frenetic 2021 calendar year.” — Patrick Z. McGavin, The Chicago Tribune, 22 Aug. 2022

Did You Know?

In modern use, frenetic can describe a focused and intense effort to meet a deadline, or dancing among a hyped-up crowd, but the word’s Middle English predecessor, frenetik, had a more specific meaning than “frantic or wild”: it was originally used to describe those exhibiting a severely disordered state of mind. If you trace frenetic back far enough, you’ll find that it comes from Greek phrenîtis, a term referring to an inflammation of the brain. (Phren, the Greek word for “mind” (among other meanings) is a root recognizable in schizophrenic.) As for frenzied and frantic, they’re not only synonyms of frenetic but relatives as well. Frantic comes from frenetik, and frenzied traces back to phrenîtis.

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