1. something broad and flat used for striking or for making a noise by striking.
  2. a broad, flat, hinged or hanging piece; flap.
  3. a young woman, especially one who, during the 1920s, behaved and dressed in a boldly unconventional manner.
  4. a young bird just learning to fly.
  5. Slang. the hand.

Origin of flapper

First recorded in 1560–70; flap + -er1
Related formsflap·per·dom, nounflap·per·ish, adjectiveflap·per·ism, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for flappers

Contemporary Examples of flappers

Historical Examples of flappers

  • Their wings are small and narrow, and look more like flappers, or stunted arms, than wings.

  • This they do in holes which they dig out with their flappers in the sand.

  • By the help of the tail and flappers they move quickly over the ground.

    Taking Tales

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • Of course she shouldn't have taken such a risk, but; what can you do with these flappers?

    Black Oxen

    Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton

  • His symbol is a pair of flappers or castanets, which he carries in one hand.

British Dictionary definitions for flappers


  1. a person or thing that flaps
  2. (in the 1920s) a young woman, esp one flaunting her unconventional dress and behaviour
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 flappers



"forward young woman," 1921 slang, from flap (v.), but the exact connection is disputed. Perhaps from flapper "young wild-duck or partridge" (1747), with reference to flapping wings while learning to fly, of which many late 19c. examples are listed in Wright's "English Dialect Dictionary" (1900), including one that defines it as "A young partridge unable to fly. Applied in joke to a girl of the bread-and-butter age."

But other suggested sources are late 19c. northern English dialectal use for "teen-age girl" (on notion of one with the hair not yet put up), or an earlier meaning "prostitute" (1889), which is perhaps from dialectal flap "young woman of loose character" (1610s). Any or all of these might have converged in the 1920s sense. Wright also has flappy, of persons, "wild, unsteady, flighty," with the note that it was also "Applied to a person's character, as 'a flappy lass,'" and further on he lists flappy sket (n.) "an immoral woman."

In Britain the word took on political tones in reference to the debate over voting rights.

"Flapper" is the popular press catch-word for an adult woman worker, aged twenty-one to thirty, when it is a question of giving her the vote under the same conditions as men of the same age. ["Punch," Nov. 30, 1927]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

flappers in Culture


A nickname given to young women in the 1920s who defied convention by refusing to use corsets, cutting their hair short, and wearing short skirts, as well as by behavior such as drinking and smoking in public. (See Jazz Age and Roaring Twenties.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.