[ flesh ]
See synonyms for: fleshfleshless on Thesaurus.com

  1. the soft substance of a human or other animal body, consisting of muscle and fat.

  2. muscular and fatty tissue.

  1. the muscular and fatty substance or tissue in animals that is consumed as food: often regarded specifically as meat while excluding seafood.

  2. fatness; weight: Even after giving birth to her third child, she had very little excess flesh to lose.

  3. the body, especially as distinguished from the spirit or soul: The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

  4. the physical or animal nature of humankind as distinguished from its moral or spiritual nature: the needs of the flesh.

  5. Archaic. humankind: It is a higher plane of existence, a domain of mystery, where flesh has never walked.

  6. Archaic. living creatures generally: Are we not the guardians of all flesh, from the tiniest burrowers of earth to the grandest dwellers of ocean?

  7. a person's family or relatives; flesh and blood: With the death of his sister, he is now the last of his lineal flesh.

  8. Botany. the soft, pulpy portion of a fruit, vegetable, etc., as distinguished from the core, skin, shell, etc.: After roasting the squash halves, scrape the flesh from the skin and mash with some cream and butter.

  9. the surface of the human body; skin: A person with tender flesh should not expose it to direct sunlight.

  10. (no longer in common use; now considered offensive) flesh color: The crayons they once called “flesh” have been labeled “peach” since 1962.

verb (used with object)
  1. Archaic. to plunge (a weapon) into the flesh: With brazen might, she fleshed her sword into the dragon’s throat.

  2. HuntingObsolete. to feed (a hound or hawk) with flesh in order to make it more eager for the chase: It was hardly necessary to flesh those foxhounds—they were excited enough by their master’s call to the hunt.: Compare blood (def. 16).

  1. Archaic. to incite and accustom (persons) to bloodshed or battle by an initial experience: Under his regime, it was not uncommon for very young boys to be fleshed as indoctrination into a culture of brutality.

  2. Obsolete. to inflame the ardor or passions of by a foretaste: I shall not be easily fleshed—especially by those of questionable intent.

  3. to overlay or cover (a skeleton or skeletal frame) with flesh or with a fleshlike substance: The bones appeared to have been fleshed, as if to simulate some sort of reconstruction.

  4. to give dimension, substance, or reality to (often followed by out): When Evan tells the story, it’s more fleshed, more compelling and believable.The playwright wrote pretty good characters, but the actors really fleshed them out.

  5. to remove adhering flesh from (hides), in leather manufacture: The hides we work with have been thoroughly fleshed before we receive them.

  6. Archaic. to satiate with flesh or fleshly enjoyments; surfeit; glut: Are you gentlemen quite fleshed?

Verb Phrases
  1. flesh out,

    • to add details to or make more complete: She fleshed out her proposal considerably before presenting it to the committee for action.

    • to gain weight: He realized to his dismay that he had fleshed out during the months of forced inactivity.

Idioms about flesh

  1. in the flesh, present and alive before one's eyes; in person: The movie star looked quite different in the flesh.

  2. pound of flesh, something that strict terms or codes of justice demand is due, but can only be paid with great loss or suffering to the payer: These guys are notorious for providing loans that can never be paid off without a pound of flesh.

  1. press the flesh, Informal. to shake hands, as with voters while campaigning: The senator is busy as ever pressing the flesh on the campaign trail.

Origin of flesh

First recorded before 900; Middle English flesh, flæsh, flash, Old English flǣsc; cognate with Old Frisian flēsk, Old High German fleisk, German Fleisch, Old Norse flesk “pork, ham, bacon”

Other words from flesh

  • flesh·less, adjective

Words Nearby flesh

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

How to use flesh in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for flesh


/ (flɛʃ) /

  1. the soft part of the body of an animal or human, esp muscular tissue, as distinct from bone and viscera: Related adjective: sarcoid

  2. informal excess weight; fat

  1. archaic the edible tissue of animals as opposed to that of fish or, sometimes, fowl; meat

  2. the thick usually soft part of a fruit or vegetable, as distinct from the skin, core, stone, etc

  3. the human body and its physical or sensual nature as opposed to the soul or spirit: Related adjective: carnal

  4. mankind in general

  5. animate creatures in general

  6. one's own family; kin (esp in the phrase one's own flesh and blood)

  7. a yellowish-pink to greyish-yellow colour

  8. Christian Science belief on the physical plane which is considered erroneous, esp the belief that matter has sensation

  9. (modifier) tanning of or relating to the inner or under layer of a skin or hide: a flesh split

  10. in the flesh in person; actually present

  11. make one's flesh creep (esp of something ghostly) to frighten and horrify one

  12. press the flesh informal to shake hands, usually with large numbers of people, esp in political campaigning

  1. (tr) hunting to stimulate the hunting instinct of (hounds or falcons) by giving them small quantities of raw flesh

  2. to wound the flesh of with a weapon

  1. archaic, or poetic to accustom or incite to bloodshed or battle by initial experience

  2. tanning to remove the flesh layer of (a hide or skin)

  3. to fatten; fill out

Origin of flesh

Old English flǣsc; related to Old Norse flesk ham, Old High German fleisk meat, flesh

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with flesh


In addition to the idioms beginning with flesh

  • flesh and blood
  • flesh out

also see:

  • go the way of all flesh
  • in person (the flesh)
  • make one's flesh creep
  • neither fish nor fowl (flesh)
  • pound of flesh
  • press the flesh
  • spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
  • thorn in one's flesh

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.