It’s time for another fresh old word from James Orchard Halliwell’s Dictionary of Archaic Words. And it’s a word for spring.
In fact, it’s a word for springing, For sproinging. Even for spronging. It’s for someone or something who’s spring-fresh, even frightfully so, like the friskiest fry or some other friendly tyke.
According to Halliwell, it has two senses. The second is “to go, or move hastily”; the first is “fresh, active, lusty,” in support of which he quotes poetry:
Thys day a man ys fresche and fryke,
And schewyth forth a gladly chere.
You may note that in the orthography of the source, y is sometimes preferred in places we would use i or e. Halliwell doesn’t give a pronunciation, but it’s likely that the word’s modern reflex would be frike.
Now, fryke is not in the Oxford English Dictionary. But frike is, with the senses “lusty, strong, vigorous” and “joyful.” It has several citations, one of which from 1430 uses the y spelling:
When thou art fryke and in thy flowres,
Thou werest purpure, perreye, ore palle.
Except not exactly. The etymology is traced for Old French frique, but it’s not related to freak (which didn’t show up in English until the 1500s, when it manifested like a freak of nature). Rather, it may be an earlier form of frisque, which may be the source of frisky, though there’s strong competition for that honour from the Germanic root that gives us fresh, which is not of the same origin – though there is a concinnity of sense.
To be frank, this orthographic history is bit of a fright. But whichever way frike came, it froths with the fr that may refer to freedom or frustration but seems always to have a frisson of frenzy in it (in fact, if you want technical detail, approximately 25% of all words that start with fr have a sense related to chaos or excrescence – a proportion that is above chance). Which is fitting for this season of fresh leaves, fresh animals, fresh fruit, fresh friends, fresh desire to greet the elements freely.
And if you like the ike – or yke – this word is yours for the taking, fresh from the archives!