[ flee ]
/ fli /
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verb (used without object), fled [fled], /flɛd/, flee·ing.
to run away, as from danger or pursuers; take flight.
to move swiftly; fly; speed.
verb (used with object), fled, flee·ing.
to run away from (a place, person, etc.).
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Origin of flee

First recordedbefore 900; Middle English fleen, Old English flēon; cognate with Old High German flichan (German fliehen ), Gothic thliuhan; compare Old English fleogan “to fly”; see also fly2


outflee, verb (used with object), out·fled, out·flee·ing.un·flee·ing, adjective


flea, flee
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does flee mean?

To flee is to run away or escape from a dangerous or otherwise negative situation.

Much less commonly, flee can be used to mean to move at a fast pace. The past tense of flee is fled.

Example: He was forced to flee his home as a result of the impending battle.

Where does flee come from?

The first records of flee come from before the 900s. It comes from the Old English flēon. The related Old English word fleogan means “to fly” (and is the basis for fly).

Humans can’t fly, of course, but flee implies the quickness and urgency with which a bird flies away. In fact, one of the meanings of the verb fly is “to flee or escape,” and a common synonym of flee is take flight. When we talk about the fight-or-flight reaction, the flight part doesn’t refer to actual flying—it means fleeing. Flee means “to run away,” and fleeing often involves literally running, but people can flee in all kinds of ways, including using vehicles. The best way to flee is whatever gets you out of a bad situation the fastest.

Flee typically implies that the bad situation is a very dangerous one. Refugees are usually fleeing from war, violence, or famine. Sometimes, however, people flee when they shouldn’t. Drivers who have hit someone or have caused an accident and have driven away are often said to have fled the scene.

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What are some other forms related to flee?

  • fled (past tense verb)
  • outflee (verb)
  • fleer (noun)
  • unfleeing (adjective)

What are some synonyms for flee?

What are some words that share a root or word element with flee


What are some words that often get used in discussing flee?


What are some words flee may be commonly confused with?

How is flee used in real life?

Flee is often used in reference to situations that are very dangerous—those in which people are fleeing for their lives.



Try using flee!

Is flee used correctly in the following sentence?

The suspects chose to flee the scene instead of staying and assisting the victim of the accident.

How to use flee in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for flee (1 of 2)

/ (fliː) /

verb flees, fleeing or fled
to run away from (a place, danger, etc); flyto flee the country
(intr) to run or move quickly; rush; speedshe fled to the door

Derived forms of flee

fleer, noun

Word Origin for flee

Old English flēon; related to Old Frisian fliā, Old High German fliohan, Gothic thliuhan

British Dictionary definitions for flee (2 of 2)

/ (fliː) /

a Scot word for fly 1
a Scot word for fly 2
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