Joseph Merrick, c. 1889

The term freak originally referred to a person who was physically deformed or suffered from an extraordinary disease and condition, such as Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man". This has fallen into disuse, except as a pejorative, and (among performers in freak shows) as jargon. "Freaks" of this kind can be classified into two groups: natural freaks and made freaks. A natural freak would usually have a genetic abnormality, while a made freak is a person who has an artificial alteration, such as a surgical implant.

"Freak" is also used to describe a genetic mutation in plants and animals.

A more recent meaning is someone with something strikingly unusual about their appearance or behaviour. This usage dates from the "freak scene" of the 1960s and 1970s, most famously championed by Frank Zappa, leader of the rock band the Mothers of Invention.[citation needed]

See also