flip

1
[ flip ]
/ flɪp /

verb (used with object), flipped, flip·ping.

verb (used without object), flipped, flip·ping.

noun

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Idioms for flip

    flip one's lid / wig, Slang. lid (def. 8).

Origin of flip

1
First recorded in 1585–95; 1955–60 for def. 18; see origin at fillip

Definition for flip (2 of 3)

flip2
[ flip ]
/ flɪp /

noun

a mixed drink made with liquor or wine, sugar, and egg, topped with powdered nutmeg and served hot or cold.
a drink, popular especially in the 18th century, made with beer or ale mixed with rum or other liquor, sweetened and served hot.

Origin of flip

2
First recorded in 1690–1700; perhaps noun use of flip1, so called from tossing or flipping of ingredients in preparation

Definition for flip (3 of 3)

flip3
[ flip ]
/ flɪp /

adjective, flip·per, flip·pest.Informal.

flippant; pert: She answered with a flip remark.

Origin of flip

3
First recorded in 1840–50; adjective use of flip1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

BEHIND THE WORD

Where does flip come from?

When it comes to studying the origins of words, it’s easy to overlook—and take for granted—everyday, unassuming words, like flip. But oftentimes, the story behind these most basic of words can provide great insights into how words work.

Flip is first recorded around 1585–95. It appears to be related to, and may even be a contraction of, the word fillip. This word means “to strike with the nail of a finger snapped from the end of the thumb.” Compared to flip, fillip is less common but older, recorded around 1425–75.

While the ultimate origin of fillip is unknown, etymologists think the word is what’s called expressive. While imitative words evoke the actual sound of a word being defined (boom), the sound of expressive words can conjure up a particular emotion, sensation, shape, movement, and so on. So, a word like fillip evokes the movement involved in the action of fillipping.

Try flipping—or filliping—your thumb and index finger. Can you hear how the words evoke such finger flicking? And use of the word flick is no accident here. Flick is very similar in sense and form, imitating the sound of flicking something.

Dig deeper

Like flick, the word flip also brings to mind flop, as in flip-flop and its variant, flip-flap. Flop itself originates as a variant of flap. Flip-flops, like the kind of sandals you might wear at the pool, are so named for the sound they make when you walk in them.

Flip, flap, flop, flick—the initial cluster, fl-, in English is associated with flittering, fluttering, flitting motion. This relationship between the sound fl– and the meaning of unsteady movement is called sound symbolism.

Sound symbolism is the “nonarbitrary connection between phonetic features of linguistic items and their meanings, as in the frequent occurrence of close vowels in words denoting smallness, as petite and teeny-weeny.”

One commonly cited example of sound symbolism in English is how many words dealing with light begin with the cluster gl-: glance, glare, glimmer, glitter, and glimpse, to name a few. Can you think of other words to add to this list?

One the most familiar forms of sound symbolism is onomatopoeia, the formation of a word, as cuckoo, meow, honk, or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.

Did you know ... ?

The word flip, and the underlying type of movement the word expresses, is also apparently the source of the adjective flippant, meaning “frivolously disrespectful, shallow, or lacking in seriousness; characterized by levity.” Flippant entered English around 1595–1605. Its earliest senses were “talkative,” “nimble,” and “playful,” which extended to “unserious” and “disrespectful.”

The adjective flip is an informal synonym for flippant, recorded around 1840–50. It may have shortened from flippant or extended directly from flip.

Example sentences from the Web for flip

British Dictionary definitions for flip

flip
/ (flɪp) /

verb flips, flipping or flipped

noun

adjective

informal impertinent, flippant, or pert

Word Origin for flip

C16: probably of imitative origin; see fillip
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