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Abrade vs Excoriate vs Chafe vs Fret vs Gall

Abrade, excoriate, chafe, fret and gall all mean to affect a surface by rubbing, scraping, or wearing away.

Abrade usually implies rubbing or scraping by something hard or harsh: when the surface rubbed or scraped is soft, injury results, but when it approaches the other in hardness, a smoothing or polishing (as by grinding) may be achieved.

  • My skin was abraded and very tender.
  • The skin of her leg was abraded by the sharp rocks.

Excoriate which literally implies a stripping or wearing away of the skin or hide usually suggests a peculiarly painful effect on something soft or tender made by something (as an abrasive or abrasion or a corrosive substance) that removes or destroys a protective layer such as the skin or mucous membrane.

  • Long and hard work excoriated his hands.
  • His palms were excoriated by the hard labor of shoveling.

Chafe (see also: Chafe vs Chaff ) suggests a slight but persistent and painful or injurious rubbing of one thing upon another.

  • Her wrists chafed where the rope had been.
  • The collar was far too tight and chafed her neck.
  • Skin is easily irritated, chapped, chafed, and sensitized.

Fret suggests an eating into or wearing away.

  • Dripping water fretted a channel through the stone.

Gall is used especially with reference to animals and, less often, to persons: it implies a superficial injury such as an abrasion or blister made by friction.

  • An ill-fitting saddle galled the horse’s back.

All have extended usage with an implication of irritating or wearing. Abrade and chafe usually suggest a persistent cause.

  • He soon chafed at the restrictions of his situation.

Excoriate is used rather specifically of a censuring so severe as to cause real distress or mental anguish.

  • He proceeded to excoriate me in front of the nurses.

Fret and gall typically imply a causing of emotional wear and tear.

  • Her baby starts to fret as soon as she goes out of the room.
  • It must have galled him that Bardo thwarted each of these measures.