an instrument for threshing grain, consisting of a staff or handle with a freely swinging stick or bar attached to one end of it.
a similar instrument used as a weapon of war.
to move about randomly and wildly: Running down to the lake I hit a patch of mud and found myself flailing all over the path, arms and legs flying.
to make desperate or unproductive attempts to respond to a challenging problem, awkward situation, etc. (usually followed by around or about): He makes things worse by flailing about with administrative solutions to educational problems he doesn't understand.For six years the government flailed, proposing one ineffectual program after another.
to thresh (grain) with a flail: Together they managed to clear land, seed wheat, flail the grain by hand, and grind it into flour.
to beat, strike, attack, etc., repeatedly with or as if with a flail: I flailed the water with a variety of lures for hours, and caught three bass.The infantry closed in while artillery support flailed the enemy positions.
to move (a limb, one’s body, etc.) randomly and wildly (often followed by around or about): Gasping and choking, he flailed a hand in my general direction.
to swing (something) about as if using a flail: She violently flailed the flare around, trying to catch the attention of the figure on the hill.
(of a limb or joint of the body) having excessive or abnormal mobility due to loss of muscle control as the result of injury or disease: The orthopedist studied hundreds of cases of post-polio flail shoulder.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024
How to use flail in a sentence
These layoffs are helping contribute to flailing consumer sentiment about the economy, which in itself could contribute to a recession.'Only the Paranoid Survive.' Some CEOs Are Cutting Staff Even as the Labor Market Booms | Alana Semuels | August 5, 2022 | Time
Her teens had been so sheltered, she was left flailing as she entered adulthood and began experimenting with sex and alcohol.Jennette McCurdy lived a teen star dream. Silently, she was suffering. | Ashley Spencer | August 5, 2022 | Washington Post
At first, when the model knows nothing about moving, the body flails around as it tries out random motions.Virtual critters evolve bodies that help them learn | Kathryn Hulick | July 8, 2022 | Science News For Students
The two ground huggers mostly flailed ineffectively in the wind.‘Wandering’ salamanders glide like skydivers from the world’s tallest trees | Jake Buehler | May 23, 2022 | Science News
Vance is flailing in a race that many here in Washington thought was his to lose.J.D. Vance Praised France's Popular Vote Elections. Why That Misses the Point | Philip Elliott | April 12, 2022 | TIme
He begins to flail and exhaust himself before submerging for good.Whatever You Do Someone Will Die. A Short Story About Impossible Choices in Iraq | Nathan Bradley Bethea | August 31, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
The younger boy has gone under the river, and the girl continues to flail in the older boy's arms.Whatever You Do Someone Will Die. A Short Story About Impossible Choices in Iraq | Nathan Bradley Bethea | August 31, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
My wife, at least, enjoys watching me flail about on our elliptical.23andMe and Me: Why Policymakers Should Set the Genetic Testing Company Free | Charles C. Johnson | February 4, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
He is going to have to work hard not to flail around aimlessly, following the lead of congressional Democrats.
Watching them squirm is more fun than watching Romney and Paul Ryan flail away.Michael Tomasky on the GOP’s Self-Delusion Syndrome | Michael Tomasky | September 27, 2012 | THE DAILY BEAST
Even if poverty were gone, the flail could still beat hard enough upon the grain and chaff of humanity.The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice | Stephen Leacock
The farmer caught up a huge flail with which he was wont to thresh out his oats.Hunted and Harried | R.M. Ballantyne
Raoul, whose flail had made even De Carnac give way, turned to follow, but Richard was on him.God Wills It! | William Stearns Davis
Arms some had, but arms none used; for Trenchefer dashed them down as the flail smites, ere one could raise or draw.God Wills It! | William Stearns Davis
He struck a poor man for a trifling word, with a flail, which proved fatal to the unoffending object.Fox's Book of Martyrs | John Foxe
British Dictionary definitions for flail
an implement used for threshing grain, consisting of a wooden handle with a free-swinging metal or wooden bar attached to it
a weapon so shaped used in the Middle Ages
(tr) to beat or thrash with or as if with a flail
to move or be moved like a flail; thresh about: with arms flailing
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