Intermediate+ Word of the Day: fringe

fringe (noun, verb) /frɪndʒ/ LISTEN

A woman having her fringe trimmed

A fringe is a decorative border of short threads, loops, or other material, used on fabric. A fringe is also a marginal part of something, the outer edge of something, or a group with extreme views on something. In the UK, a fringe is a section of hair cut straight across the forehead (called bangs in the US). To fringe, as a verb, is ‘to furnish or arrange with a fringe.’

Example sentences

  • Bikers' leather jackets often have fringes of tassels.
  • That politician is part of the party's extreme left-wing fringe.
  • Poor people often end up living on the fringes of society.
  • The terrorist was part of an extremist fringe group.
  • Rebecca wears her hair in a bob with a straight-cut fringe.
  • Sam fringed the curtains with loops of gold.

In pop culture

Fringe is a science fiction TV show that aired in the US (and many other countries) between 2008 and 2013. It followed a group of FBI agents investigating paranormal events, things that happened on the “fringe” of what most people know and believe. Here’s a show preview for its very first season:

Additional information

As mentioned above, in hairstyles, what is called a fringe in the UK is called bangs in the US. These aren’t the only words for hairstyles that differ; although, according to many dictionaries, the words plait and braid both exist in UK and US English, people in the UK are more likely to use plait than braid, and people in the US will almost always use braid instead of plait.

Did you know?

Fringe festivals normally host slightly alternative and perhaps experimental performances, normally alongside or slightly before or after a more mainstream festival. The best known example, and the one that first used the term fringe to describe itself, is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, so famous that it is often just known as The Fringe. The Fringe has helped many well-known British comedians to establish their careers, including Eddie Izzard, Rowan Atkinson, and Jo Brand. You can see a clip of Rowan Atkinson interviewing the famous singer Elton John here:

Origin

Fringe dates back to the mid-14th century. The Middle English noun frenge, meaning ‘ornamental bordering,’ was borrowed from the Old French frenge, which meant ‘thread, strand, fringe, hem or border.’ It can be traced back to the Vulgar Latin frimbia, a variant of the Late Latin fimbria, which comes from the Latin fimbriae, meaning ‘fringe.’ The verb comes from the noun, and dates back to the late 15th century. The adjective did not appear until the early 19th century. The figurative use of fringe, meaning something on the margin of something else, was first used in the late 19th century.

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