Origin of flay
OTHER WORDS FROM flayflayer, nounun·flayed, adjective
Words nearby flay
What does flay mean?
To flay is to strip off the skin or outer covering of something. Flay is most commonly used metaphorically to refer to severely criticizing someone. It can also mean to cheat or deprive someone of money or property.
The original, literal meaning of flay typically referred to removing the skin of an animal. Flay can also refer to removing the skin of a human, especially as a form of torture by whipping. Neither of its literal senses are commonly used anymore, except perhaps in fiction.
Example: People on social media love to flay celebrities who are caught doing the opposite of what they always tell other people to do.
Where does flay come from?
Flay is an old word. The first records of it come from before the 900s. It comes from the Old English flēan, which is related to the Old Norse word flā, meaning “to peel.”
The literal sense of flay typically refers to removing an animal’s skin to make leather or to prepare it for butchering, but this has largely been replaced with other terms, such as the verb skin. Thankfully, nowadays the flaying of humans is largely reserved for fictional stories or graphic expressions, as in If my teacher ever caught me sleeping in class, he would flay me alive.
Today, flay most often means to harshly criticize someone, especially in an unmerciful and thorough way—to really roast them, to use another metaphor. Flay is most often used this way when such criticism happens in a public forum, such as in the press or on social media. The target of such flaying is typically a celebrity, politician, or other public figure, such as one revealed to be guilty of being a hypocrite.
The similar-sounding word fillet means “a boneless cut of fish or meat” or “to prepare such a cut.”
Did you know ... ?
What are some other forms related to flay?
- flayer (noun)
- flayed (adjective)
- unflayed (adjective)
What are some synonyms for flay?
What are some words that often get used in discussing flay?
What are some words flay may be commonly confused with?
How is flay used in real life?
Flay isn’t commonly used in a literal way. Today, when someone flays someone, it’s typically by roasting them on social media.
How is Hodgson not being flayed by the press for England’s early exit? Is there a single Greek/Costa Rica player who would get into our 11?
— anu (@anu) June 29, 2014
2 glasses of soda and my teeth are in pain and my gums are weak to the point where brushing them flayed them apart and they're bleeding. Is this normal?
— Mister Ordering The Macdonald's Garden Salad (@JonHailothry) November 12, 2018
Is flaying a reasonable way to cure sunburn? Asking for a friend.
— Not Bri. Just me. (@BeautyBrienne) August 1, 2015
Try using flay!
Is flay used correctly in the following sentence?
She got absolutely flayed by the media during the scandal.
How to use flay in a sentence
He was captured and—despite loud calls to flay him alive, lynch him, tear him apart, and the like—given a lengthy trial.
The Chicago Tribune took every chance to flay Truman, as The Wall Street Journal daily flays Obama.
Whoever advised President Obama to flay Israel publicly until this week should be fired.
Plus, view our gallery of celebrity professors—including Spike Lee, Bobby Flay, and Eliot Spitzer.
If one of you dare utter a syllable against this holy man, by Heaven, I will flay him alive.The Trapper's Daughter|Gustave Aimard
But what, it may be asked, is the worth and use of a satire that drags out vices from their hiding-holes to flay them in sunshine?
But the personal aggression on the wit by the dunce, may fairly instigate the wit to flay the dunce.
He cuts off the head, grallochs the stag and begins to flay it.Life in an Indian Outpost|Gordon Casserly
And when that tongue gets going it can certainly flay a man alive, remarked Wheeler.Baseball Joe, Captain of the Team|Lester Chadwick