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.

verb (used with or without object)

to beat or swing with or as if with a flail.

Origin of flail

before 1100; Middle English fleil (noun), Old English flighel (probably misspelling of *flegil), cognate with Dutch vlegel, German Flegel < West Germanic *flagil- < Late Latin flagellum flail, Latin: whip, scourge. See flagellum
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for flailed

thrash, smash, smack, bash, knock, thwack, pummel, club, sock, maltreat, batter, lash, hit, whale, flog, slug

Examples from the Web for flailed

Historical Examples of flailed

  • His head broke the surface, and he flailed the water in an effort to keep his nose in air.

    The Players

    Everett B. Cole

  • He flailed the air frantically, and managed to regain his balance.

    Pagan Passions

    Gordon Randall Garrett

  • Braced on his strong, short legs Gunnar flailed them like wheat.

    Hunters Out of Space

    Joseph Everidge Kelleam

  • Then he had them beaten, flailed, until the fibres were all separated one from another.

    Picturesque Pala

    George Wharton James

  • As the others rushed in, Gavir flailed about him with long arms and heavy fists.

    Star Performer

    Robert J. Shea

British Dictionary definitions for flailed



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 for flail

C12 fleil, ultimately from Late Latin flagellum flail, from Latin: whip
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 flailed



15c., from flail (n.); originally "to scourge;" sense of "to move like a flail" is from 1874. Related: Flailed; flailing.



"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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

flailed in Medicine




To move vigorously or erratically; thrash about.
To strike or lash out violently.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.