View synonyms for flailing


[ fley-ling ]


  1. the act of moving one’s limbs or body about randomly and wildly (often followed by around or about ):

    The patient had to be sedated, as her flailing gave the nurse a bloody nose.

  2. the act or process of making desperate attempts to respond to a difficult or awkward situation (often followed by around or about ):

    Embracing the challenge of doing business differently doesn't just mean more effort, more mindless flailing around.

  3. the act or process of beating grain with a flail to separate the kernel from the chaff:

    As wheat production increased, flailing and winnowing were replaced with threshing machines and fanning mills.


  1. moving about randomly and wildly, or making desperate attempts to respond to a challenge:

    I was pushed out of bed by the flailing limbs of my overexcited little boy.

    There was no real strike, only a flailing protest by unions trying to become relevant again.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of flailing1

First recorded in 1850–55; flail ( def ) + -ing 1( def ) for the noun senses; flail ( def ) + -ing 2( def ) for the adjective sense

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Example Sentences

I enjoyed whipping through enemies with a flail that increases in speed and momentum the more its swung.

The firing of a new executive brought in to shake up the flailing show is getting dead-movie-star tabloid coverage.

As he performs, he can be seen flailing around on the street in front of a setting sun.

But can a 22-year-old winning formula save a flailing system?

What do you do when your political career is flailing and the election is only weeks away?

A flailing genre seems revitalized, if “revitalized” means youth, though not female, or black, or openly gay talent.

Men rushed to get away from the reach of those flailing arms.

It was like an inexpert boxer flailing according to rules unknownand Greys face flamed and actually turned anxious.

He balled his fists and hammered air like a windmill, arms flailing, striking flesh often enough to batter Larry toward the floor.

But always, when a fly was hit, his ear registered the crack of the flailing bat, and his eye followed the ascending ball.

He drove them to the sidewalk, flailing away at those within reach.


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