What does the word ‘frangible’ mean?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: frangible….

I keep hearing Michael Crummey’s book, The Innocents, listed on various media outlets’ top 10 book lists. I’m surprised to hear that because I thought the novel was quite mediocre.

Nevertheless, Crummey’s book gave me several words of the week including bawn and rames and skerry.  Now I have a new one to add: frangible. Here is how he used it in a sentence:

There were signs of bruising like an old water stain around the ankle and the frangible skin had peel away with the stocking in spots.

The adjective means “easily breakable” and dates back to the early 15th century where it came from the Old French frangible. This, in turn came from the Medieval Latin frangibilis, from Latin frangere meaning “to break.”

The word is often used to refer to objects that are made intentionally breakable — such as frangible bullets (intended to disintegrate into tiny particles upon impact to prevent hurting other objects),  and frangible nuts (used in the space industry,  allowing a bolt to remain intact while the nut splits into two or more parts).

Such breakable objects might also be useful in emergencies (such as frangible light poles or frangible smoke outlet panels).

The photo at the top of this post, however, shows an ultimately frangible item — a potato chip.