Definition of chafe in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /CHāf/


1 [with object] (Of something restrictive or too tight) make (a part of the body) sore by rubbing against it: the collar chafed his neck
More example sentences
  • Her hands were bound together by a painfully tight rope, chafing badly at her wrists.
  • Oddly enough, though the wounds haven't bothered him in years, Jonnie is abruptly aware that his shirt collar is chafing at the rough scar tissue left over from that old attack.
  • All of us had worn sheaths of kid-leather on the arm that held the bow when we began to learn archery in our childhood; otherwise, the string would have horribly chafed our delicate skins.
1.1 [no object] (Of a part of the body) be or become sore as a result of abrasive rubbing.
Example sentences
  • He wrists ached as they chafed against the rope around them.
  • ‘I think my neck is starting to chafe,’ she grumbled.
  • Edur shifted uncomfortably, wrists chafing against the rope.
1.2 [no object] (Of an object) rub abrasively against another object: the grommet stops the cable from chafing on the metal
More example sentences
  • A wiring bundle chafing against a fuel line eventually wore through the line and sprayed fuel on a hot bleed-air element.
  • Check for upper radiator hose wear as it sits near an engine-mounting bolt and can chafe.
  • There was absolutely no evidence of chafing, wear or any damage to it.
2 [with object] Rub (a part of the body) to restore warmth or sensation.
Example sentences
  • A shiver passed through Darius, and he began to chafe his arms to push some warmth back into them.
  • Reaching the sitting area, he grinned at Jake and flopped into another chair, chafing his hands to get a modicum of feeling back into them.
  • There they go round the fire, rubbing and chafing their hands to keep the blood in circulation, and almost fighting each other to see which shall sit on the fire and get warm.
3Become or make annoyed or impatient because of a restriction or inconvenience: [no object]: the bank chafed at the restrictions imposed upon it [with object]: it chafed him to be confined like this
More example sentences
  • They are a great way to bring everyone up to a dismal, but passable, level of performance, but at the same time, they are aggravating to more talented people who chafe at the restrictions that are placed on them.
  • Bonham Carter shows us an Olivia who is feisty and strong, chafing at her restrictions and only too happy to entertain the amusing Cesario.
  • The last two, in particular, chafed at the restrictions of religious orthodoxy, but like Galileo after them, chose to live and continue their researches in preference to martyrdom.
be angry, be annoyed, be irritated, fume, be exasperated, be frustrated


1Wear or damage caused by rubbing: to prevent chafe the ropes should lie flat
More example sentences
  • Also, check your main reef lines to prevent chafe to the sailcloth that may be pinched between the line and the boom.
  • Instead, I have put just a little vaseline on to prevent chafe before really long runs.
  • Chafe can be a problem around the upper thighs particularly in hot climates and on rough roads but this can be reduced by using petroleum jelly and has not generally been a significant problem.
2 archaic A state of annoyance.
Example sentences
  • No: I could not but smile through my chafe: For the fellow lay safe As his mates do, the midge and the nit, ---Through minuteness, to wit. ...
  • Look, prithee, Charmian, How this herculean Roman does become the carriage of his chafe.
  • Y'all disenfranchise and marginalize the black man and you expect him to bear his chafe?


chafe at the bit


Late Middle English (in the sense 'make warm'): from Old French chaufer 'make hot', based on Latin calefacere, from calere 'be hot' + facere 'make'.

Words that rhyme with chafe

Rafe, safe, vouchsafe, waif

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: chafe

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.