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  1. a small, flat, thin piece, especially one that has been or become detached from a larger piece or mass: flakes of old paint.
  2. any small piece or mass: a flake of snow.
  3. a stratum or layer.
  4. Slang. an eccentric person; screwball.
  5. Slang. cocaine.
  6. a usually broad, often irregular piece of stone struck from a larger core and sometimes retouched to form a flake tool.
verb (used without object), flaked, flak·ing.
  1. to peel off or separate in flakes.
  2. to fall in flakes, as snow.
verb (used with object), flaked, flak·ing.
  1. to remove in flakes.
  2. to break flakes or chips from; break into flakes: to flake fish for a casserole.
  3. to cover with or as if with flakes.
  4. to form into flakes.

Origin of flake1

1350–1400; (noun) Middle English; akin to Old English flac- in flacox flying (said of arrows), Old Norse flakka to rove, wander, Middle Dutch vlacken to flutter; (in def 4) by back formation from flaky, in sense “eccentric, odd”; (v.) late Middle English: to fall in flakes, derivative of the noun
Related formsflake·less, adjectiveflak·er, noun


  1. a frame, as for drying fish.

Origin of flake2

1300–50; Middle English flake, fleke < Old Norse flaki, fleki bridge, hurdle


  1. fake2(defs 2, 3).
verb (used with object), flaked, flak·ing.
  1. fake2(def 1).
  2. to lower (a fore-and-aft sail) so as to drape the sail equally on both sides over its boom.

Origin of flake3

First recorded in 1620–30; apparently variant of fake2


verb, flaked, flak·ing.
  1. flake out, Slang. to fall asleep; take a nap.

Origin of flake4

1935–40; perhaps expressive variant of flag3; compare British dialect flack to hang loosely, flap
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for flake

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The wind had ceased, but the snow was still falling, here and there a flake.

    Heather and Snow

    George MacDonald

  • The impending snow hung over the city but not a flake had fallen as yet.


    Emile Zola

  • Presently, flake by flake, the first snow of winter drifted down.

    Murder Point

    Coningsby Dawson

  • The Foam Flake was pretty nearly ready to come by this time.

    Fair Harbor

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

  • For the first time in ten years at least, the Foam Flake ran away.

    Fair Harbor

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

British Dictionary definitions for flake


  1. a small thin piece or layer chipped off or detached from an object or substance; scale
  2. a small piece or particlea flake of snow
  3. a thin layer or stratum
  4. archaeol
    1. a fragment removed by chipping or hammering from a larger stone used as a tool or weaponSee also blade
    2. (as modifier)flake tool
  5. slang, mainly US an eccentric, crazy, or unreliable person
  1. to peel or cause to peel off in flakes; chip
  2. to cover or become covered with or as with flakes
  3. (tr) to form into flakes
Derived Formsflaker, noun

Word Origin

C14: of Scandinavian origin; compare Norwegian flak disc, Middle Dutch vlacken to flutter


  1. a rack or platform for drying fish or other produce

Word Origin

C14: from Old Norse flaki; related to Dutch vlaak hurdle


  1. nautical another word for fake 1


  1. (in Australia) the commercial name for the meat of the gummy shark
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

Word Origin and History for flake


"thin, flat piece," early 14c., possibly from Old English *flacca "flakes of snow," from Old Norse flak "loose or torn piece" (related to Old Norse fla "to skin," see flay), from Proto-Germanic *flago- (cf. Middle Dutch vlac, Dutch vlak "flat, level," Middle High German vlach, German Flocke "flake"); from PIE *plak- (1) "to be flat," extended form of root *pele- (2) "flat, to spread" (see plane (n.1)).


early 15c., "to fall in flakes," from flake (n.). Related: Flaked; flaking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

flake in Science


  1. A relatively thin, sharp-edged stone fragment removed from a core or from another flake by striking or prying, serving as a tool or blade itself or as a blank for making other tools. See more at flake tool.
  2. A small, symmetrical, six-sided crystal of snow. Flakes can be large or small and wet or dry, depending on weather conditions. They are white in color because of their large number of reflecting surfaces.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.