There was the following passage in Time magazine’s (October 12) article titled, “Why ambition isn’t working for women:

“While American women and men have similar levels of ambition (51% of men and 38% of women would describe themselves as very / extremely ambitious), the whys and the wherefores are complicated. This subject of women’s ambition and how we deal with it has long been textured and fraught.

As I was unclear with the meaning of the words, “textured and fraught,” I checked the definition of “texture(ed)” and “fraught” on English dictionaries at hands. But I was unable to get any hint of interpretation of this phrase from them. As I googled “textured and fraught,” there were a couple of examples of sentences using this phrase. For instance:

Johns' art has always existed with a foot in both worlds, as it were. The surfaces of his paintings are masterfully textured and fraught with the psychic intensity of an inner compulsion in the manner of such ab-ex pioneers as …. Baltimore Sun. 2001/08/19

For this reason, this “juxtaposition between panorama and myth,” Donald argues, bespeaks the “doubly textured” nature of ... which is associated with power, and a “pedestrian” view of the city, which is densely textured and fraught with the rich experiences of the individuals occupying and traversing that space. - Leaving China -Media, Migration and Transnational Imagination, by Wanning Sun – 2002

What does “the subject and how to deal with it has been long been textured and fraught” mean?

Is “textured and fraught” an idiom or a pair words? Could you rephrase it for me with simpler words?

  • Have you looked up the words individually??
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 5, 2015 at 12:08
  • "Textured" here is intended to mean "subtly complex".
    – JHCL
    Nov 5, 2015 at 12:17
  • @Hot Licks. Yes I did. I understand "fraught." But I cannot associate "texture(ed)" with the text at all. For instance, Cobuild defines texture 1. the way it feels when you toutch it. 2.structure of food or soil. textured as a textured surface is not smooth, but has a particular texture, for example, it feels rough. OALED provides similar definitions on both 'texture' and 'textured.' They seem irrelvant to "textured and fraught" as an idiom or words in tandem to me. I mean I cannot associate all these difinitions with the above quoted text of Time article.. Nov 5, 2015 at 12:23
  • If you look at your two examples you will see that it's not "textured and fraught" but rather, eg, "(densely textured) and (fraught with ...)" -- two entirely different phrases. In this context "densely textured" can be viewed as a metaphor of the words in "densely textured fabric".
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 5, 2015 at 12:42

2 Answers 2


You have to derive its meanings from etymology of each word.


early 15c., "network, structure," from Middle French texture and directly from Latin textura "web, texture, structure," from stem of texere "to weave," from PIE root teks- "to weave, to fabricate, to make; make wicker or wattle framework"...

As you can see, the word meant something made by weaving that took a long time and complicated procedure to make and woven fabric in old days was not very smooth on its surface. Therefore, it carries a connotation of "being difficult to make and rough on surface", which can be interpreted as being "difficult" and "complicated/not simple to understand".


freight (v.) "to load (a ship) with goods or merchandise for shipment," mid-15c. variant of Middle English fraught (v.) "to load (a ship)," c. 1400

The word "fraught" has the same etymology as "freight" and it means a state of being fully loaded. If a ship is fully loaded, it is not easy to sail around at sea, which is "not desirable".

[Online Etymology Dictionary]

It is not easy to explain what "textured and fraught" means in other words, but if I try:

This subject of women’s ambition and how we deal with it has long been considered as a complex (woven with a lot of issues), fully loaded (full of other factors) and undesirable subject to research and understand.

  • I think modern usage of fraught is reserved things that are unwanted/undesirable (e.g. oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/fraught)
    – Dan
    Nov 5, 2015 at 12:59
  • @Dan That's why I wrote "not desirable" above. I think it is better to incorporate it in the rephrased sentence. Thanks.
    – user140086
    Nov 5, 2015 at 13:06

Textured is the opposite of smooth (from Latin textura ‘weaving’). Fraught means filled with (something unwanted).

The pair as presented are not a familiar idiom to me, but they combine well for purposes of describing metaphorically how the history of a subject has had many 'ups and downs' and 'twists and turns', often/usually (depending how fraught) difficult to overcome.

  • 1
    I agree. 'textured' means 'rough' (and therefore 'difficult' -- as in the metaphor 'a rough road to travel'). The phrase 'textured and fraught' is simply an example of a writer trying to appear clever and failing miserably. Sadly this is very common--mostly among art critics of all genres. I'll be prepared to bet that this author is in fact a critic in their normal day job. Nov 5, 2015 at 12:39
  • Yes, I agree. Textured is in the sense of varied, nuanced, rough, but also in the sense of having cross-purposes, different groups with different agendas weaving the figurative tapestry that represents the background of this topic.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Nov 5, 2015 at 13:02
  • 1
    And, in critical commentary the phrase can easily sound pretentious - verges on self-parody.
    – Dan
    Nov 5, 2015 at 13:03

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