Intermediate+ Word of the Day: fuss

fuss (noun, verb) /fʌs/ LISTEN

Julien always makes a fuss when I try to cook dinner without a recipe.

Fuss is a very common word, especially in the UK. As a noun, it means an excessive agitation or display of attention, or a noisy protest. As a verb, it means ‘to complain or worry too much about little things’ or ‘to behave in a nervous way.’ When used with with it means ‘to fiddle with something or keep adjusting it in a nervous way.’ When used with over it means ‘to show concern over or give a lot of attention to someone or something.’

Example sentences

  • Our boss suddenly quit today and there is a big fuss at the office.
  • The kids were so tired that they went to sleep without a fuss.
  • Stop fussing over it and do it!
  • Kim kept fussing with her clothes before her big date.
  • My husband always fusses over me when I'm sick.

Words often used with fuss

make a fuss is another way of using fuss as a verb. If you make a fuss, you behave in an agitated way, but if you make a fuss of people or animals, that means showing them a lot of attention. Example: “I always make a fuss of my dog when I get home from work.”

fusspot (noun, UK, informal): someone who fusses a lot. Example: “Fiona is such a fusspot about keeping the house clean and neat.”

In pop culture

Listen to Stevie Wonder singing “So What the Fuss” here:

Did you know?

Fussy is a related adjective that we use for someone who makes a fuss. It is especially common to say that an agitated baby is fussy, and fussy can also mean ‘too busy with unimportant things’ or ‘hard to satisfy.’ In reference to clothes and designs, it can mean ‘with too much decoration’ or ‘too elaborate.’ Example: “I thought Erica’s wedding dress was too fussy. I prefer classic, elegant styles.”

Other forms

fusser (noun), fussy (adjective)


Fuss, originally meaning ‘bustle,’ dates back to around the year 1700, but was used only colloquially until the late 18th century. Its origin is uncertain. The first recorded uses were by Anglo-Irish writers, but it has no clear relation to any Irish word. Some linguists believe that the noun emerged directly in English as an alteration of the noun force, while others think it may have come about as an imitation of the sound of something bubbling or sputtering. Yet another theory is that it came into English from the Danish fjas (nonsense or foolery). The verb fuss, meaning ‘to make a fuss,’ first appeared in the late 18th century. The expression to make a fuss appeared before the verb, in the mid-18th century, replacing a similar expression, to keep a fuss, from a few decades earlier.

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