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[flap-er] /ˈflæp ər/
something broad and flat used for striking or for making a noise by striking.
a broad, flat, hinged or hanging piece; flap.
a young woman, especially one who, during the 1920s, behaved and dressed in a boldly unconventional manner.
a young bird just learning to fly.
Slang. the hand.
Origin of flapper
First recorded in 1560-70; flap + -er1
Related forms
flapperdom, noun
flapperish, adjective
flapperism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for flappers
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Their wings are small and narrow, and look more like flappers, or stunted arms, than wings.

  • This they do in holes which they dig out with their flappers in the sand.

    A Voyage round the World W.H.G. Kingston
  • By the help of the tail and flappers they move quickly over the ground.

    Taking Tales W.H.G. Kingston
  • Of course she shouldn't have taken such a risk, but; what can you do with these flappers?

    Black Oxen

    Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
  • His symbol is a pair of flappers or castanets, which he carries in one hand.

    Chats on Oriental China J. F. Blacker
  • Do any of the flappers at the club ever find it too hot to play?

    Affinities and Other Stories Mary Roberts Rinehard
  • If you want to compete with the flappers, you've got to play by the flapper rules.

    Nonsenseorship G. G. Putnam and Others
  • Tender as butter, these flappers, for they're not much older.

    Nevermore Rolf Boldrewood
  • He tells about the "flappers," and then about the "shifters."

British Dictionary definitions for flappers


a person or thing that flaps
(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
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Word Origin and History for flappers



"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
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flappers in Culture

flappers definition

A nickname given to young women in the 1920s who defied convention by refusing to use corsets, cutting their hair short, and wearing short skirts, as well as by behavior such as drinking and smoking in public. (See Jazz Age and Roaring Twenties.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for flappers



: the flapper era/ flat flapper chest


  1. The hand; flipper (1770s+)
  2. A young woman of the type fashionable in the 1920s, with pronounced worldly interests, relatively few inhibitions, a distinctive style of grooming, etc •The date refers to two senses, ''a young whore'' and ''a young girl''; the 1920s revival seems to blend these (1893+)

[origin uncertain; perhaps from the idea of an unfledged bird flapping its wings]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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