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 found the Alison Wearing memoir, Moments of Glad Grace to be exceptionally easy to read. Featuring mostly short sentences, plenty of active voice, and lots of figurative language, the book practically read itself!

Still, it contained a surprising number of words that were new to me: including etiolated and rubicund and, now, frangible. Here is how the author used it:

Satisfied, he begins flipping through his notes, looking for the reference numbers he has written down, while I page through the frangible documents. 

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 speciality bullets (intended to disintegrate into tiny particles upon impact to prevent hurting other objects),  and specialty 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 smoke outlet panels).

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

Scroll to Top