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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.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to flicker.
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  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.
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Origin of flicker1

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


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

lambent, meteoric, uncertain, fulgurating

Examples from the Web for flickering

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • "And you, too," he added, flickering a glance at Miss Georgie.

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • The familiar horse appeared in the flickering circle of light.

  • Gone was the brambled waste, gone the flickering tangle of woodland.

    The Golden Age

    Kenneth Grahame

  • The paper that hung in his hand had touched the flickering peat.

  • Nelly caught it up and held it on the breezy side of the flickering match.

British Dictionary definitions for flickering


  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
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  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)
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Derived Formsflickeringly, adverbflickery, adjective

Word Origin

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
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Word Origin

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 flickering



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

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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.

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"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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper