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.