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2017 Word of the Year

flail

[fleyl] /fleɪl/
noun
1.
an instrument for threshing grain, consisting of a staff or handle to one end of which is attached a freely swinging stick or bar.
2.
a similar instrument used as a weapon of war.
verb (used with or without object)
3.
to beat or swing with or as if with a flail.
Origin of flail
1100
before 1100; Middle English fleil (noun), Old English flighel (probably misspelling of *flegil), cognate with Dutch vlegel, German Flegel < West Germanic *flagil- < Late Latin flagellum flail, Latin: whip, scourge. See flagellum
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for flail
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The scythe, the sickle, and the flail were the same as their forbears had used for centuries.

    Union and Democracy

    Allen Johnson
  • He had one cop in his left arm, using him as a flail against the others.

    Police Your Planet Lester del Rey
  • Do you like the sound of the line, “I wield the flail of the lashing hail”?

    Journeys Through Bookland, Vol. 10

    Charles Herbert Sylvester
  • Theodoric of Engedi, you know, the flail of the Desert, that's a splendid one to do.

    Margaret Montfort Laura E. Richards
  • Later still he was threshing some of this corn with a flail.

    Change in the Village (AKA George Bourne) George Sturt
British Dictionary definitions for flail

flail

/fleɪl/
noun
1.
an implement used for threshing grain, consisting of a wooden handle with a free-swinging metal or wooden bar attached to it
2.
a weapon so shaped used in the Middle Ages
verb
3.
(transitive) to beat or thrash with or as if with a flail
4.
to move or be moved like a flail; thresh about: with arms flailing
Word Origin
C12 fleil, ultimately from Late Latin flagellum flail, from Latin: whip
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for flail
n.

"implement for threshing grain," c.1100, perhaps from an unrecorded Old English *flegel, which probably represents West Germanic *flagil (cf. Middle Dutch and Low German vlegel, Old High German flegel, German flegel), a borrowing of Late Latin flagellum "winnowing tool, flail," from Latin flagellum "whip" (see flagellum).

v.

15c., from flail (n.); originally "to scourge;" sense of "to move like a flail" is from 1874. Related: Flailed; flailing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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flail in Medicine

flail (flāl)
v. flailed, flail·ing, flails

  1. To move vigorously or erratically; thrash about.

  2. To strike or lash out violently.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Word Value for flail

8
10
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