verb (used without object)

verb (used with object)

to cause or permit to flow: to flow paint on a wall before brushing.
to cover with water or other liquid; flood.


Origin of flow

before 900; (v.) Middle English flowen, Old English flōwan; akin to Middle Low German vlōien, Old Norse flōa; (noun) late Middle English: surge of a wave, derivative of the v.
Related formsflow·a·ble, adjectiveflow·a·bil·i·ty, nounre·flow, noun, verbun·der·flow, noun
Can be confusedfloe flow (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonyms for flow

1. Flow, gush, spout, spurt refer to certain of the movements characteristic of fluids. Flow is the general term: Water flows. A stream of blood flows. To gush is to rush forth copiously from a cavity, in as large a volume as can issue therefrom, as the result of some strong impelling force: The water will gush out if the main breaks. Spout and spurt both imply the ejecting of a liquid from a cavity by some internal impetus given to it. Spout implies a rather steady, possibly well-defined, jet or stream, not necessarily of long duration but always of considerable force: A whale spouts. Spurt implies a forcible, possibly sudden, spasmodic, or intermittent issue or jet: The liquid spurted out suddenly when the bottle cap was pushed in. Spout applies only to liquids; the other terms apply also to gases. 7. run. 9. teem.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for flow

Contemporary Examples of flow

Historical Examples of flow

  • He acquired a general knowledge of the ebb and flow of popular stocks.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • We are channels through which truth must flow to our patients.

  • The blood seemed to flow back to my heart as I realised what I had done.

  • Have they considered the awful consequences likely to flow from their representations of Virtue?

  • The tears used to flow limpid and pearl-like from her grey, questioning eyes.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

British Dictionary definitions for flow


verb (mainly intr)

(of liquids) to move or be conveyed as in a stream
(of blood) to circulate around the body
to move or progress freely as if in a streamthe crowd flowed into the building
to proceed or be produced continuously and effortlesslyideas flowed from her pen
to show or be marked by smooth or easy movement
to hang freely or looselyher hair flowed down her back
to be present in abundancewine flows at their parties
an informal word for menstruate
(of tide water) to advance or riseCompare ebb (def. 1)
(tr) to cover or swamp with liquid; flood
(of rocks such as slate) to yield to pressure without breaking so that the structure and arrangement of the constituent minerals are altered


the act, rate, or manner of flowinga fast flow
a continuous stream or discharge
continuous progression
the advancing of the tide
a stream of molten or solidified lava
the amount of liquid that flows in a given time
an informal word for menstruation
  1. a marsh or swamp
  2. an inlet or basin of the sea
  3. (capital when part of a name)Scapa Flow
flow of spirits natural happiness

Word Origin for flow

Old English flōwan; related to Old Norse flōa, Middle Low German vlōien, Greek plein to float, Sanskrit plavate he swims
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 flow

Old English flowan "to flow, stream, issue; become liquid, melt; abound, overflow" (class VII strong verb; past tense fleow, past participle flowen), from Proto-Germanic *flo- (cf. Middle Dutch vloyen, Dutch vloeien "to flow," Old Norse floa "to deluge," Old High German flouwen "to rinse, wash"), probably from PIE *pleu- "flow, float" (see pluvial). The weak form predominated from 14c., but strong past participle flown is occasionally attested through 18c. Related: Flowed; flowing.


mid-15c., "action of flowing," from flow (v.). Meaning "amount that flows" is from 1807. Flow chart attested from 1920.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

flow in Medicine




To move or run smoothly with unbroken continuity.
To circulate, as the blood in the body.
To menstruate.


The smooth motion characteristic of fluids.
The volume of fluid or gas passing a given point per unit of time.
Menstrual discharge.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with flow


see ebb and flow; go with the flow.

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