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wail

[weyl]
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verb (used without object)
  1. to utter a prolonged, inarticulate, mournful cry, usually high-pitched or clear-sounding, as in grief or suffering: to wail with pain.
  2. to make mournful sounds, as music or the wind.
  3. to lament or mourn bitterly.
  4. Jazz. to perform exceptionally well.
  5. Slang. to express emotion musically or verbally in an exciting, satisfying way.
verb (used with object)
  1. to express deep sorrow for; mourn; lament; bewail: to wail the dead; to wail one's fate.
  2. to express in wailing; cry or say in lamentation: to wail one's grief.
noun
  1. the act of wailing.
  2. a wailing cry, as of grief, pain, or despair.
  3. any similar mournful sound: the wail of an old tune.

Origin of wail

1300–50; Middle English weile (v. and noun), perhaps derivative of Old English weilā(wei) well-away; compare Old English wǣlan to torment, Old Norse wǣla to wail
Related formswail·er, nounwail·ing·ly, adverbun·wailed, adjectiveun·wail·ing, adjective
Can be confusedwail whale
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for wailing

wail

verb
  1. (intr) to utter a prolonged high-pitched cry, as of grief or misery
  2. (intr) to make a sound resembling such a crythe wind wailed in the trees
  3. (tr) to lament, esp with mournful sounds
noun
  1. a prolonged high-pitched mournful cry or sound
Derived Formswailer, nounwailful, adjectivewailfully, adverb

Word Origin

C14: of Scandinavian origin; related to Old Norse vǣla to wail, Old English woe
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 wailing

wail

n.

c.1400; see wail (v.).

wail

v.

early 14c., from Old Norse væla "to lament," from "woe" (see woe). Of jazz musicians, "to play very well," attested from 1955, American English slang (wailing "excellent" is attested from 1954). Related: Wailed.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper