free fall



the hypothetical fall of a body such that the only force acting upon it is that of gravity.
the part of a parachute jump that precedes the opening of the parachute.
a decline, especially a sudden or rapid decline, as in value or prestige, that appears to be endless or bottomless: The economy was in a free fall all winter.

Also free-fall (for defs 1, 2).

Origin of free fall

First recorded in 1915–20



verb (used without object), free-fell, free-fall·en, free-fall·ing.

(of parachutists) to descend initially, as for a designated interval, in a free fall: The jumpers were required to free-fall for eight seconds.


denoting or suggesting a free fall: a free-fall recession.

noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for freefall

Contemporary Examples of freefall

  • But so too might the elevator cable snap and send you into a freefall.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Ding Dong, You Have Lice

    Kent Sepkowitz

    October 31, 2013

  • It went into freefall as the political stalemate worsened through July.

    The Daily Beast logo
    2011's Debt Ceiling Debacle

    David Frum

    May 29, 2012

  • But if it drives readers even further away from old-fashioned newsprint, it could inadvertently send revenues into freefall.

    The Daily Beast logo
    How the iPad Could Kill Newspapers

    Richard J. Tofel

    February 13, 2010

  • Some of the rock-star artists who experienced meteoric rises, helped by manipulations on the auction block, are now in freefall.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Art's New Price Hype

    Arne Glimcher

    May 12, 2009

Historical Examples of freefall

  • I fell, spun, plunged head over heels through tilting lights and shadows that flung us through eternities of freefall.

    The Door Through Space

    Marion Zimmer Bradley

British Dictionary definitions for freefall

free fall


free descent of a body in which the gravitational force is the only force acting on it
the part of a parachute descent before the parachute opens
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 freefall

also free fall, free-fall, 1919, originally of parachutists and in rocketry, from free (adj.) + fall (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

freefall in Culture

free fall

In physics, the motion of a body being acted upon only by gravity. A satellite in orbit is in free fall, as is a skydiver (if we neglect the effects of air resistance).


During free fall, objects are said to be weightless.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with freefall

free fall

A rapid, uncontrolled decline, as in The markets threatened to go into free fall and we came close to outright panic. This term transfers the aeronautical meaning of a free fall, that is, “a fall through the air without any impedance, such as a parachute,” to other kinds of precipitous drop. [Second half of 1900s]

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