verb (used with object)

to strip off the skin or outer covering of.
to criticize or scold with scathing severity.
to deprive or strip of money or property.

Origin of flay

before 900; Middle English flen, Old English flēan; cognate with Middle Dutch vlaen, Old Norse flā
Related formsflay·er, nounun·flayed, adjective

Synonyms for flay

2. castigate, excoriate, upbraid, chew out.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for flay

Contemporary Examples of flay

  • He was captured and—despite loud calls to flay him alive, lynch him, tear him apart, and the like—given a lengthy trial.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Mumbai Massacre Perpetrator's Sentence Affirmed

    Dilip D’Souza

    September 3, 2012

  • The Chicago Tribune took every chance to flay Truman, as The Wall Street Journal daily flays Obama.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Obama’s Truman Moment

    Harold Evans

    September 9, 2011

  • Whoever advised President Obama to flay Israel publicly until this week should be fired.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Fire the Mideast Policy Team!

    Leslie H. Gelb

    July 7, 2010

Historical Examples of flay

British Dictionary definitions for flay


verb (tr)

to strip off the skin or outer covering of, esp by whipping; skin
to attack with savage criticism
to strip of money or goods, esp by cheating or extortion
Derived Formsflayer, noun

Word Origin for flay

Old English flēan; related to Old Norse flā to peel, Lithuanian pl e šti to tear
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 flay

Old English flean "to skin" (strong verb, past tense flog, past participle flagen), from Proto-Germanic *flakhanan (cf. Middle Dutch vlaen, Old High German flahan, Old Norse fla), from PIE root *plak- (2) "to hit" (cf. Greek plessein "to strike," Lithuanian plešiu "to tear;" see plague (n.)). Related: Flayed; flaying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper