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  1. a feature that mars the perfection of something; defect; fault: beauty without flaw; the flaws in our plan.
  2. a defect impairing legal soundness or validity.
  3. a crack, break, breach, or rent.
verb (used with object)
  1. to produce a flaw in.
verb (used without object)
  1. to contract a flaw; become cracked or defective.

Origin of flaw1

1275–1325; Middle English flaw(e), flage, perhaps < Old Norse flaga sliver, flake
Related formsflaw·less, adjective


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1. imperfection, blot, spot. 3. fissure, rift.

Synonym study

1. See defect.


  1. Also called windflaw. a sudden, usually brief windstorm or gust of wind.
  2. a short spell of rough weather.
  3. Obsolete. a burst of feeling, fury, etc.

Origin of flaw2

First recorded in 1475–85, flaw is from the Old Norse word flaga attack, squall
Related formsflaw·y, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for flaw

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The Inspector seized on the one flaw left him for defense against her indictment.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • The most carping could have found no flaw in the quiet taste of his attire.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • It was more; it was a mistake, a flaw in her diplomacy; for Calendar intercepted it.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • There was a flaw in one of the rods connected with the engine.

  • The complainant's shield was examined and counted, and not a flaw discovered.

    Vivian Grey

    Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli

British Dictionary definitions for flaw


  1. an imperfection, defect, or blemish
  2. a crack, breach, or rift
  3. law an invalidating fault or defect in a document or proceeding
  1. to make or become blemished, defective, or imperfect
Derived Formsflawless, adjectiveflawlessly, adverbflawlessness, noun

Word Origin

C14: probably from Old Norse flaga stone slab; related to Swedish flaga chip, flake, flaw


    1. a sudden short gust of wind; squall
    2. a spell of bad, esp windy, weather
  1. obsolete an outburst of strong feeling
Derived Formsflawy, adjective

Word Origin

C16: of Scandinavian origin; related to Norwegian flaga squall, gust, Middle Dutch vlāghe
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 flaw


early 14c., "a flake" (of snow), also in Middle English "a spark of fire; a splinter," from Old Norse flaga "stone slab, flake" (see flagstone); sense of "defect, fault" first recorded 1580s, first of character, later (c.1600) of material things; probably via notion of a "fragment" broken off.


early 15c. (implied in flawed); see flaw (n.). Related: Flawing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper