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Ex. is it ok to say such and such is fraught. Full stop? In a case where the context makes it clear what its fraught with?

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I've never heard it used that way where I live (US Midwest). –  Kristina Lopez Aug 27 at 18:22
    
It's an archaic word that survives in the language today mainly through the idiom fraught with. It would be ok to use outside the idiom form if you were, for instance, doing a play about the 18th century and wanted to say the ship was filled with cargo. The ship be fraught, mateys!. However, using it today outside the idiom form would be like using spake or thou or sayeth - it's not a crime but people will probably look at you strangely. –  Brillig Aug 27 at 19:18
    
The sense @Brillig alludes to (laden, cargoed, equipped) is the original meaning of the word and would not be used in normal speech or writing today. There is another sense of the word which is used without with, that of being anxious, stressed out, harassed; this only (or at least usually) applies to people. This is a different usage from something being fraught with something, so even though you can use the word without with, the answer to your question is no: you cannot use fraught in the sense of fraught with X without the with there. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 27 at 19:28

3 Answers 3

This question came up in Ben Zimmer's "On Language" column in the New York Times of May 21, 2010. Zimmer does a nice job of outlining the history of the with-less fraught. In particular, he points to the 1920s as seeing the first occurrences of fraught "without even a hint of an object":

The earliest example I've found so far comes from a 1925 serialized story by Henry Leyford Gates about a flapper named Joanna. In one installment Gates writes, "It was Joanna who at last broke the fraught silence." The lyrical phrase fraught silence, perhaps evoking pregnant pause, shows up again in books from 1934, 1946 and 1958. Another early use is in George O'Neil's 1931 novel about the poet John Keats, "Special Hunger": "For Keats this was a singularly fraught circumstance." Circumstances, along with anxiety-ridden situations, issues and relationships, would soon become familiar companions for fraught.

According to Zimmer, the greatest progress in the usage has occurred in the past couple of decades. The entire column is well worth reading. Though Zimmer doesn't say so, I suspect that the usage may be much more firmly established in the United States than in the UK. In any event, I see it often in the New York Times and in the New Yorker.

A Google Books search turns up matches for unaided fraught as early as John Higgins, The Mirour for Magistrates (1587):

"Or sith the Græcians will thee for to take

The noble Laie Iunogen to wyfe,

If thou so please, let him her dowry make

Of golde, ships, siluer, corne, for our reliefe,

And other thinges, which are in Græcie eyfe,

That we so fraught may seeke some desert shore,

Where thou and thyne may raygne for euermore.

Here fraught means simply "freighted"—that is, laden or loaded.

By the 1800s, this earlier sense of stand-alone fraught had almost died out, and virtually all occurrences of fraught occurred in tandem with with. One of the few exceptions appears in a review of "The Obligations of the British Churches to Foreign Interference. A Sermon preached before the London Missionary Society, at Tottenham Court Chapel, May 12, 1825,By Richard Hamilton," in The Congregational Magazine, (August 1825):

When "the right hand of fellowship was given them that they should go unto the heathen ;" when "they kneeled down on the shoe and prayed ;" when the full sob of nature interrupted the utterance of affection ; when the bark, stretching before the wind, left indistinct and then imperceptible to them the weeping band which, in their turn, now lost sight of the fluttering speck ; when the loneliness of ocean comported with their desertion ; when the wind caught up their sighs, and the wave drank their tears ; when the bursting heart found no external solace, and the fraught bosom no reciprocation ; oh ! who can measure their sacrifices, who record their straggles, who feel their throes?

Another occurs in this speech from David Brown, The Prophet of St. Paul's serialized in in The North American Magazine (April 1835):

Francis. Bid me be dumb: but let me gaze upon thee,

Till the fraught soul shall surfeit on thy charms.

An from a London Clergyman, "A Summer Sunday on the Righi," in "Wind Wafted Seed" (1868):

It was as if an invisible hand had arrested the fraught clouds till the last day of the week, in order to make the first day emerge with all the greater majesty and splendour.

The earliest twentieth-century instance of with-less fraught that a Google Books search finds is from "Unforgotten," in Genealogy of the Tapley Family (1900):

With folded hands and wistful eyes,

We look and listen, and ask to know

What would God have us realize

As the fraught days come and go?

And the first prose occurrence is from Winifred James, Out of the Shadows (1924) [combined snippets]:

The little one stretches out his hand to his brother, but she forbids it.

"He is no baby," she says, " he must get himself up," and with the language of the fraught pause and the compelling eye, he who is no baby, but six years old quite, gets on to his feet and follows obediently.

A Google Books search for "the fraught silence" (which may or may not be representative of the resurgent usage overall) returns dozens of matches; but only five are from before 1970, and most are from 1990 or later.

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Probably. One of the meanings of Fraught is "distressed", how ever the word is used so rarely that except for special circumstances, I might suggest using a different word.

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I think it's quite common in BrE? Admittedly it's mainly restricted to negotiations, arguments and complexities, which might be what you meant by special circumstances. –  Dan Sheppard Aug 27 at 18:00
    
I’m not sure I’d call it common exactly (not in my experience, at least), but there’s nothing wrong with “He sounded a bit fraught when I spoke to him earlier”, meaning that he sounded a bit anxious, harried, and stressed out. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 27 at 19:23
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@JanusBahsJacquet Yes. It is used quite a lot in that way in Britain. –  WS2 Aug 27 at 19:52

Maybe, but I don't think so.

Fraught
-- (of a situation or course of action) filled with or destined to result in (something undesirable).

Google Dictionary

This suggests that it requires two other things - a situation and a unpleasant noun. For example:

The stunt          was fraught     with peril

The situation   was fraught     with something undesirable (serious and immediate danger)

Google Dictionary

I speak British English, and I've never heard, or read it used on its own.

However, it can be used in this meaning (apparently):

Marked by or causing distress; emotional: "an account of a fraught mother-daughter relationship” ( Francesca Simon).

But you still can't say:

The stunt was fraught.

Fraught with what!? I have to know! Tell me!1

It's like saying:

The car crashed into the. 2

Into the what!? I have to know! Tell me!

1 Peril still. Or danger, but peril is cooler.

2 It was wet concrete. (No. 3)

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I was thinking more: "This approach is a little fraught" to mean risky, carrying risk, in a context where it would be obvious that risk was the thing it was fraught with. –  corsair Aug 28 at 17:55
    
No, that doesn't work, at least I would never say that, I would add on what it was fraught with (BrE btw, and we use fraught more in that way than in AmE) –  Tim Aug 28 at 17:57

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