FRET. (1) (From O. Eng. fretan, a word common in various forms to Teutonic languages; cf. Ger. fressen, to eat greedily), properly to devour, hence to gnaw, so used of the slow corroding action of chemicals, water, etc., and hence, figuratively, to chafe or irritate. Possibly connected with this word, in sense of rubbing, is the use of "fret" for a bar on the fingerboard of a banjo, guitar, or similar musical instruments to mark the fingering. (2) (Of doubtful origin; possibly from the O. Eng. frætive, ornaments, but its use is paralleled by the Fr. frette, trellis or lattice), network, a term used in heraldry for an interlaced figure, but best known as applied to the decoration used by the Greeks in their temples and vases: the Greek fret consists of a series of narrow bands of different lengths, placed at right angles to one another, and of great variety of design. It is an ornament which owes its origin to woven fabrics, and is found on the ceilings of the Egyptian tombs at Benihasan, Siout and elsewhere. In Greek work it was painted on the abacus of the Doric capital and probably on the architraves of their temples; when employed by the Romans it was generally carved; the Propylaea of the temple at Damascus and the temple at Atil being examples of the 2nd century. It was carved in large dimensions on some of the Mexican temples, as for instance on the palace at Mitla with other decorative bands, all of which would seem to have been reproductions of woven patterns, and had therefore an independent origin. It is found in China and Japan, and in the latter country when painted on lacquer is employed as a fret-diaper, the bands not being at right angles to one another but forming acute and obtuse angles. In old English writers a wider signification was given to it, as it was applied to raised patterns in plaster oh roofs or ceilings, which were not confined to the geometrical fret but extended to the modelling of flowers, leaves and fruit; in such cases the decoration was known as fret-work. In France the fret is better known as the "meander."
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)