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See more synonyms for flipper on Thesaurus.com
  1. a broad, flat limb, as of a seal or whale, especially adapted for swimming.
  2. Also called fin. one of a pair of paddlelike devices, usually of rubber, worn on the feet as an aid in scuba diving and swimming.
  3. Theater. a narrow flat hinged or attached at right angles to a larger flat.
  4. Slang. the hand.
  5. someone or something that flips.
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Origin of flipper

First recorded in 1815–25; flip1 + -er1


adjective, flip·per, flip·pest. Informal.
  1. flippant; pert.
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Origin of flip3

First recorded in 1840–50; adj. use of flip1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for flipper


  1. the flat broad limb of seals, whales, penguins, and other aquatic animals, specialized for swimming
  2. Also called: fin (often plural) either of a pair of rubber paddle-like devices worn on the feet as an aid in swimming, esp underwater
  3. cricket a ball bowled with backspin imparted by the action of the bowler's wrist
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verb flips, flipping or flipped
  1. to throw (something light or small) carelessly or briskly; tosshe flipped me an envelope
  2. to throw or flick (an object such as a coin) so that it turns or spins in the air
  3. to propel by a sudden movement of the finger; flickto flip a crumb across the room
  4. (foll by through) to read or look at (a book, newspaper, etc) quickly, idly, or incompletely
  5. (intr) (of small objects) to move or bounce jerkily
  6. (intr) to make a snapping movement or noise with the finger and thumb
  7. (intr) slang to fly into a rage or an emotional outburst (also in the phrases flip one's lid, flip one's top, flip out)
  8. (intr) slang to become ecstatic or very excitedhe flipped over the jazz group
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  1. a snap or tap, usually with the fingers
  2. a rapid jerk
  3. a somersault, esp one performed in the air, as in a dive, rather than from a standing position
  4. same as nog 1 (def. 1)
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  1. informal impertinent, flippant, or pert
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Word Origin

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

Word Origin and History for flipper


"limb used to swim with," 1822, agent noun from flip (v.). Sense of "rubber fin for underwater swimming" is from 1945. Slang meaning "the hand" dates from 1836. Related: Flippers.

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1590s (1520s in flip-flop), imitative or else a contraction of fillip (q.v.), which also is held to be imitative. Sense of "get excited" is first recorded 1950; flip one's lid "lose one's head, go wild" is from 1950. For flip (adj.) "glib," see flippant. Meaning "to flip a coin" (to decide something) is by 1879. As a noun by 1690s. Related: Flipped. Flipping (adj.) as euphemism for fucking is British slang first recorded 1911 in D.H. Lawrence. Flip side (of a gramophone record) is by 1949.

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sailors' hot drink usually containing beer, brandy and sugar, 1690s, from flip (v.); so called from notion of it being "whipped up" or beaten.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

flipper in Science


  1. A wide, flat limb adapted for swimming, found on aquatic animals such as whales, seals, and sea turtles. Flippers evolved from legs.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.