Also found in: Thesaurus, Idioms.

fray 1

1. A fight; a brawl. See Synonyms at brawl.
2. A heated dispute or intensely competitive situation: "Minneapolis became the latest battleground in the fray over bio-engineering as hundreds of protesters took to the streets" (Todd Wilkinson).
3. A military engagement; a battle.
tr.v. frayed, fray·ing, frays Archaic
1. To alarm; frighten.
2. To drive away.

[Middle English frai, shortening of affrai; see affray.]

fray 2

v. frayed, fray·ing, frays
1. To strain; chafe: repeated noises that fray the nerves.
2. To wear away (the edges of fabric, for example) by rubbing.
To become worn away or tattered along the edges.
A frayed or threadbare spot, as on fabric.

[Middle English fraien, to wear, bruise, from Old French fraier, to rub, from Latin fricāre.]
References in classic literature ?
You could not observe that from here, but if you were on the mantelpiece you would see that it is cut clean off without any mark of fraying whatever.
It's really about how the social safety net has been fraying around the world, and it asks: Are we going to repair it--or let it fray more?"
Wool is the best choice; when felted, it creates a thick fabric that can be cut without fraying. Plus, it's wonderfully bulky, warm and water-resistant.