- an instrument for threshing grain, consisting of a staff or handle to one end of which is attached a freely swinging stick or bar.
- a similar instrument used as a weapon of war.
- to beat or swing with or as if with a flail.
Origin of flail
Examples from the Web for flail
He begins to flail and exhaust himself before submerging for good.
The younger boy has gone under the river, and the girl continues to flail in the older boy's arms.
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
He is going to have to work hard not to flail around aimlessly, following the lead of congressional Democrats.Obama’s Second-Term Crisis
January 27, 2013
Watching them squirm is more fun than watching Romney and Paul Ryan flail away.Michael Tomasky on the GOP’s Self-Delusion Syndrome
September 27, 2012
The scythe, the sickle, and the flail were the same as their forbears had used for centuries.Union and Democracy
He had one cop in his left arm, using him as a flail against the others.Police Your Planet
Lester del Rey
Do you like the sound of the line, “I wield the flail of the lashing hail”?Journeys Through Bookland, Vol. 10
Charles Herbert Sylvester
Theodoric of Engedi, you know, the Flail of the Desert, that's a splendid one to do.Margaret Montfort
Laura E. Richards
Later still he was threshing some of this corn with a flail.Change in the Village
(AKA George Bourne) George Sturt
- 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 aboutwith arms flailing
Word Origin and History for flail
"implement for threshing grain," c.1100, perhaps from an unrecorded Old English *flegel, which probably represents West Germanic *flagil (cf. Middle Dutch and Low German vlegel, Old High German flegel, German flegel), a borrowing of Late Latin flagellum "winnowing tool, flail," from Latin flagellum "whip" (see flagellum).
15c., from flail (n.); originally "to scourge;" sense of "to move like a flail" is from 1874. Related: Flailed; flailing.
- To move vigorously or erratically; thrash about.
- To strike or lash out violently.