Definition of chafe in English:



  • 1(with reference to a part of the body) make or become sore by rubbing against something:

    [with object] ‘the collar chafed his neck’
    [no object] ‘her arms chafed where the rope bit into them’
    • ‘The collar of the stiff shirt was chafing slightly around the scars on his neck, and the ponytail he'd put his hair in was so tight it was liable to give him a headache.’
    • ‘He took off his mask, rubbed a couple of sore spots on his slender face where the mask chafed against his pale skin.’
    • ‘Careful not to make a sound to disturb his two fellow inmates, he pulled the rough woollen blanket up towards him (it chafed his moisturised chin) and tried to sleep.’
    • ‘The golf bag chafed my left shoulder beneath my tee-shirt and my left palm was badly blistered.’
    • ‘No, apparently it chafes at her oh so delicate skin.’
    • ‘My mother has brought her own bed-linen, from home, and below my hot cheek, chafing it, is a butterfly: spreading luxuriant wings, embroidered on the pillowcase by my mother's own hand.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But she usually wore something under the anklet, because the metal bruised and chafed her skin, particularly after she had been fencing.’
    • ‘Alexander was pushed up against the side of the carriage and bound with hemp rope that chafed uncomfortably against his bare wrists.’
    • ‘Her wrists still burned from the rope chafing her flesh and she sucked a breath in through her clenched teeth as her forehead touched their raw skin.’
    • ‘Ramirez winced as the coverlet slipped and chafed one of the icy burns that wound around his pallid arms.’
    • ‘These people mean business and can be stopped only with tanks or by buying them larger t-shirts that don't chafe the nipples.’
    • ‘Her hands were bound together by a painfully tight rope, chafing badly at her wrists.’
    • ‘He attempted to pull his hands free, and winced as the strips of cloth used to restrain him chafed his sore 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.’
    • ‘The irritation diminished, but the cuff still chafed when he stood.’
    • ‘He then proceeded to tell me how pantyhose tend to chafe him.’
    • ‘The ropes were chafing her ankles, but at least her hands were free.’
    • ‘Bruises and scratches covered her, especially where the straps had chafed and cut into her: wrists, ankles, angry sores across her muzzle.’
    • ‘He took care with it, making sure to leave no knots of thread that would chafe bruised skin.’
    abrade, graze, grate, rub against, rub painfully, gall, skin, scrape, scratch, rasp
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[no object] (of an object) rub abrasively against another:
      ‘the grommet stops the cable chafing on the metal’
      • ‘A wiring bundle chafing against a fuel line eventually wore through the line and sprayed fuel on a hot bleed-air element.’
      • ‘Now you have a double bridle that, unlike a single rope bridle, will not quickly chafe through.’
      • ‘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.’
      abrade, graze, grate, rub against, rub painfully, gall, skin, scrape, scratch, rasp
      View synonyms
  • 2[with object] Rub (a part of the body) to restore warmth or sensation:

    ‘I chafed her feet and wrapped the blanket round her’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A shiver passed through Darius, and he began to chafe his arms to push some warmth back into them.’
    rub, warm, warm up
    View synonyms
  • 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’
    • ‘In this, by the way, they helped another group chafing under the restrictions of Britain's Navigation Laws, the North American colonists.’
    • ‘They chafe at labeling as pathological qualities that may be merely irritating.’
    • ‘Behind the scenes, as the New York Times article of April 27 made clear, the US military is chafing at the restrictions being imposed on their operation.’
    • ‘He spoke bitterly, aware that the decision had been made, and chafing under its harsh restrictions.’
    • ‘And in the surrounding towns, an army of smart professionals chafed under long rush-hour commutes to downtown Boston or famed Route 128 to the west.’
    • ‘Peres has been chafing under the limitations, and Palestinians are concerned that Peres might not have Sharon's backing in the talks.’
    • ‘In the sixth century the Middle East generally was largely pagan, and chafing under its paganism: it was up for grabs by any conquering missionaries.’
    • ‘In many ways Sterne was unsuited to the life of a country parson, and he chafed under the restrictions.’
    • ‘He chafed less under the authority of mothers, though in at least two works he shows a secret anger there, too.’
    • ‘Bonham Carter shows us an Olivia who is feisty and strong, chafing at her restrictions and only too happy to entertain the amusing Cesario.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘While perhaps chafing at having to submit their organizations to painful A - 76 procedures, the Services signed up on the expectation of diverting the savings to modernization.’
    • ‘Iraq in this case has been a catalyst that has brought to the surface the rumblings within a Europe that seems to be chafing under an assumption that their interests be subsumed into a Franco-German vision for Europe.’
    • ‘Instead of an air of holiness or solemnity, he shows us kids chafing under restrictions just as they would in a boarding school or a summer camp.’
    • ‘He doesn't like the strict financial constraints governing nations that have taken up the Euro (the Stability Pact) and is chafing under the centralised rules governing deficit spending.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Haydon, too, was chafing under classical strictures.’
    • ‘Syria is a Sunni-majority country chafing under rule by a clique of Allawites, a Shiite sect, who control the secular Syrian Baath.’
    • ‘You end up irritating and chafing a lot of judges doing your job.’
    • ‘British officials are chafing that they are unable to influence the US rebuilding program, which has bureaucratic priorities.’
    be impatient, be angry, be annoyed, be irritated, be incensed, be exasperated, be frustrated
    View synonyms


  • 1[mass noun] Wear or damage caused by rubbing:

    ‘to prevent chafe the ropes should lie flat’
    • ‘Instead, I have put just a little vaseline on to prevent chafe before really long runs.’
    • ‘The further down the dock you can lead the lines, the less acute the angle and the less the chafe.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘These will absorb an awful lot of chafe, and if they do chafe though, veer just a little more line and a new piece of hose will be in the chock to take the chafe.’
    • ‘Also, check your main reef lines to prevent chafe to the sailcloth that may be pinched between the line and the boom.’
  • 2archaic A state of annoyance:

    ‘into what an unprofitable chafe you have put yourself!’
    • ‘Y'all disenfranchise and marginalize the black man and you expect him to bear his chafe?’
    • ‘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.’


  • chafe at the bit

    • see omitted unresolving XREF to "champ at the bit" at champ


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