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flapper

[flap-er]
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noun
  1. something broad and flat used for striking or for making a noise by striking.
  2. a broad, flat, hinged or hanging piece; flap.
  3. a young woman, especially one who, during the 1920s, behaved and dressed in a boldly unconventional manner.
  4. a young bird just learning to fly.
  5. Slang. the hand.

Origin of flapper

First recorded in 1560–70; flap + -er1
Related formsflap·per·dom, nounflap·per·ish, adjectiveflap·per·ism, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for flapper

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The flapper dashed into her letter with a sort of incoherent squeal.

  • A tempting street, a flirting street, almost a flapper street.

    Spring Street

    James H. Richardson

  • In less than fifty hours that case will be as empty as a flapper's skull.

    Skylark Three

    Edward Elmer Smith

  • Great struggle for supremacy apparently with flapper sister.

    Too Old for Dolls

    Anthony Mario Ludovici

  • She was at that time a mere kid of twelve, just beginning to be a flapper.

    My Austrian Love

    Maxime Provost


British Dictionary definitions for flapper

flapper

noun
  1. a person or thing that flaps
  2. (in the 1920s) a young woman, esp one flaunting her unconventional dress and behaviour
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 flapper

n.

"forward young woman," 1921 slang, from flap (v.), but the exact connection is disputed. Perhaps from flapper "young wild-duck or partridge" (1747), with reference to flapping wings while learning to fly, of which many late 19c. examples are listed in Wright's "English Dialect Dictionary" (1900), including one that defines it as "A young partridge unable to fly. Applied in joke to a girl of the bread-and-butter age."

But other suggested sources are late 19c. northern English dialectal use for "teen-age girl" (on notion of one with the hair not yet put up), or an earlier meaning "prostitute" (1889), which is perhaps from dialectal flap "young woman of loose character" (1610s). Any or all of these might have converged in the 1920s sense. Wright also has flappy, of persons, "wild, unsteady, flighty," with the note that it was also "Applied to a person's character, as 'a flappy lass,'" and further on he lists flappy sket (n.) "an immoral woman."

In Britain the word took on political tones in reference to the debate over voting rights.

"Flapper" is the popular press catch-word for an adult woman worker, aged twenty-one to thirty, when it is a question of giving her the vote under the same conditions as men of the same age. ["Punch," Nov. 30, 1927]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper