30-Second Word Whoop: “Fritter”


“Fritter” as a verb means to waste time, money or energy on trifling matters. Don’t suppose it would be a waste of my time to attempt this cauliflower-feta cheese-pomegranate fritter recipe someone just floated my way …

Focus. Language is no trifling matter.

The verb “fritter” dates to 1720–30, from the word “fitter,” a derivative of “fit” (Old English fitt), roughly meaning “to shred.” The noun, describing a small cake of batter sometimes containing corn, fruit, clams or other morsels then deep-fried or sautéed, derives from something else entirely. Yes, from bits of food! But its linguistic ingredients date to the late Middle Ages, 1350-1400, mixing the Middle English “friture, frytour,” the Old French “friture” and the Late Latin “frīctūra,” meaning “a frying,” equivalent to Latin “frict,” the past participle of “frīgere” to fry + -ūra -ure.

What the friggin’? How did all those word fragments come together into epicurean bite-size delights covering anything from appetizers to desserts that are by no means a waste of time, in my book?


Something filling for the pie hole, or to fill a void, like time. Kinda hippy trippy, and no fritter mashes up the concept better than “dandelion fritters.” Cue a bunch of trippin’ hippies gazing off in a field of weeds, frying their brains out:

Beware a flip side to fritters, because language, like cooking, can get messy. Spam fritters, banana fritters and mule fritters all have something to do with, without mincing words, poo or buttholes. You’ll have to consult the Urban Dictionary on those. Not worthy of my time.

Fritters of yam and sweet potato in Malaysia.
Fritters of yam and sweet potato in Malaysia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Whitebait Fritter
Whitebait Fritter (Photo credit: Fraser Lewry)

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About Terry Byrne

Writer-editor with deep reservations about holding her tongue. Fan of both nature and nurture. Lifelong fascination with gender studies, sexuality, music and brainpower.

3 responses to “30-Second Word Whoop: “Fritter””

  1. Joe Gorbea says :

    One notable exception is the codfish fritter (bacalaitos) which are both delicious and never a waste of time.

  2. Terry Byrne says :

    I look forward to breaking bread and frying up fritters one day with you, Joe!

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