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verb (used without object)
  1. to burn unsteadily; shine with a wavering light: The candle flickered in the wind and went out.
  2. to move to and fro; vibrate; quiver: The long grasses flickered in the wind.
  3. to flutter.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to flicker.
  1. an unsteady flame or light.
  2. a flickering movement.
  3. a brief occurrence or appearance: a flicker of hope.
  4. Often flickers. Slang. flick2.
  5. Ophthalmology. the visual sensation of flickering that occurs when the interval between intermittent flashes of light is too long to permit fusion.

Origin of flicker

before 1000; Middle English flikeren (v.) Old English flicorian to flutter; cognate with Dutch flikkeren
Related formsflick·er·ing·ly, adverbflick·er·y, adjectiveun·flick·er·ing, adjectiveun·flick·er·ing·ly, adverb

Synonyms for flicker

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  1. any of several American woodpeckers of the genus Colaptes, having the underside of the wings and tail brightly marked with yellow or red and noted for taking insects from the ground as well as trees.

Origin of flicker

An Americanism dating back to 1800–10; said to be imitative of the bird's note
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for flicker

Contemporary Examples of flicker

Historical Examples of flicker

  • Andrew peered into the grim face of the older man; there was not a flicker of a smile in it.

  • In her numbed brain was no flicker of thought as to whatever might come to her afterward.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • She saw the flicker of the match across the street, and knew what it meant.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • "I just know he'll choose Bill," crowed the Countess after the flicker of the doctor's skirts.

  • To her, the blaze of the Set's smartness was but the flicker of a penny dip.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

British Dictionary definitions for flicker


  1. (intr) to shine with an unsteady or intermittent lighta candle flickers
  2. (intr) to move quickly to and fro; quiver, flutter, or vibrate
  3. (tr) to cause to flicker
  1. an unsteady or brief light or flame
  2. a swift quivering or fluttering movement
  3. a visual sensation, often seen in a television image, produced by periodic fluctuations in the brightness of light at a frequency below that covered by the persistence of vision
  4. the flicker (plural) a US word for flick 2 (def. 2)
Derived Formsflickeringly, adverbflickery, adjective

Word Origin for flicker

Old English flicorian; related to Dutch flikkeren, Old Norse flökra to flutter


  1. any North American woodpecker of the genus Colaptes, esp C. auratus (yellow-shafted flicker), which has a yellow undersurface to the wings and tail

Word Origin for flicker

C19: perhaps imitative of the bird's call
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 flicker

Old English flicorian "to flutter, flap quickly and lightly," originally of birds. Onomatopoeic and suggestive of quick motion. Sense of "shine with a wavering light" is c.1600, but not common till 19c. Related: Flickered; flickering.


"woodpecker," 1808, American English, possibly echoic of bird's note, or from white spots on plumage that seem to flicker as it flits from tree to tree.


1849, "wavering, unsteady light or flame;" 1857 as "a flickering," from flicker (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper