(Talking about paying more for expedited access in an airport and amusement park...)

Expedited access to the Revenge of Mummy thrill ride may be spiritually morally less freighted than privileged access to an airport security check.

Here's the question: what does the word "freighted" mean in the sentence? I am confused because it seems weird in the meaning of "cargo". Is there any other interpretation for the word?

  • Somehow, you managed to misquote "morally less freighted" as "spiritually less freighted". (See also my answer below.)
    – Erik Kowal
    Dec 27, 2014 at 10:13

3 Answers 3


"Freighted" in this usage, means carrying meaning beyond the literal. The question "where are you going" might be freighted with implications that you shouldn't be doing so, when asked by a policeman. In the quote you gave, a close approximation might be "less emotionally stressful".

  • 1
    With all respect, I think this explanation is somewhat misleading. A freighted word or question carries a meaning beyond the literal, because meaning is all words can carry, but a freighted silence or freighted touch might carry something very different. Perhaps we could agree that something freighted carries extra significance. Dec 27, 2014 at 6:08

"Freighted" is the adjective form of "freight", which literally means "to load with freight", but is often used figuratively. Wiktionary offers this example:

"English National Opera" is a title freighted with implications, and that first adjective promises not only a geographical reach, but a linguistic commitment too.

To say that one form of access is more "freighted" means it carries more of a spiritual burden (in this case, because the access might reflect on the person's character or reliability).

More common is the Middle English variant "fraught", which means the exact same thing but is is always used figuratively:

Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught
– Percy Bysshe Shelley


Oh eyes, no eyes,
but fountains fraught with tears
– Thomas Kyd


The text cited in the OP's query is taken from a 2012 book by the economist and philosopher Michael J Sandel titled What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.

Drawing most of its examples from the USA, its core theme is the question of how to strike an appropriate balance between those arrangements and institutions in society where it is reasonable to allow the free market to operate, and those where it is inappropriate.

The full context for the question posed by the OP is a comparison of the appropriateness of allowing people to pay for expedited processing through airport security versus the paid-for opportunity to jump the queues for theme park amusements:

Critics complain that a fast track through airport security should not be for sale. Security checks, they argue, are a matter of national defense, not an amenity like extra legroom or early boarding privileges; the burden of keeping terrorists off airplanes should be shared equally by all passengers. The airlines reply that everyone is subjected to the same level of screening; only the wait varies by price. As long as everyone receives the same body scan, they maintain, a shorter wait in the security line is a convenience they should be free to sell.

Amusement parks have also started selling the right to jump the queue. Traditionally, visitors may spend hours waiting in line for the most popular rides and attractions. Now, Universal Studios Hollywood and other theme parks offer a way to avoid the wait: for about twice the price of standard admission, they’ll sell you a pass that lets you go to the head of the line. Expedited access to the Revenge of the Mummy thrill ride may be morally less freighted than privileged access to an airport security check. Still, some observers lament the practice, seeing it as corrosive of a wholesome civic habit: “Gone are the days when the theme-park queue was the great equalizer,” one commentator wrote, “where every vacationing family waited its turn in democratic fashion.”

It is apparent from this more complete context that here, morally less freighted must mean morally less fraught, i.e. 'less heavily beset with moral complications'.

(Note that the questioner incorrectly quoted morally less freighted as spiritually less freighted, which is not at all the same thing.)

  • 1
    You do realize that freighted and fraught are just the regular and irregular forms of the same past-participle, like "dreamed" and "dreamt", "burned" and "burnt", "seeked" and "sought". Dec 27, 2014 at 17:49
  • @Malvolio - No. You are implying that they are both past participles of the same verb, which they are not. The words 'freight' and 'fraught' are indeed etymologically related via their common ancestor, the Middle Dutch and/or Middle Low German noun vracht (meaning 'freight money'), and have related meanings, but 'fraught' exists in modern English only as an adjective, not as a verb. According to my Chambers dictionary, when fraught was not yet obsolete as a verb, the infinitive and the past participle had the same form – fraught. The past participle of the verb freight is freighted
    – Erik Kowal
    Dec 27, 2014 at 18:35

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