Try Our Apps
Dictionary.com

follow Dictionary.com

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.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for flailing
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Desperately he tried to struggle loose, flailing with his legs—but useless.

    Raiders Invisible Desmond Winter Hall
  • He struggled, blind with fury, flailing his arms and kicking.

    Shaman Robert Shea
  • His cane had ceased its flailing; the crowd had partially ceased its uproar.

  • For these were the blocks that had formed the body of the monster of the hollow, its flailing arms.

    The Metal Monster A. Merritt
  • I thought I saw Norhala floating, clothed in shouting, flailing fires.

    The Metal Monster A. Merritt
British Dictionary definitions for flailing

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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for flailing

flail

v.

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

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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
flailing 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.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for flailing

Word Value for flailing

12
16
Scrabble Words With Friends