[ kahyt ]
/ kaɪt /
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See synonyms for: kite / kited / kiting on Thesaurus.com

verb (used without object), kit·ed, kit·ing.
Informal. to fly or move with a rapid or easy motion like that of a kite.
to obtain money or credit through kites.
verb (used with object), kit·ed, kit·ing.
to employ (a check or the like) as a kite; to cash or pass (a kite, forged check, etc.).
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Origin of kite

First recorded before 900 for def. 2; 1655–65 for def. 1; Middle English kyte,Old English cȳta “kite, bittern”; akin to German Kauz “owl”


kiter, nounkitelike, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What else does kite mean?

In prison slang, a kite is a message or note. Historically, kites were contraband notes passed between prisoners or smuggled out of prison.

Where does kite come from?

Kite, as prison slang for notes passed between inmates, was first recorded in the 1920s. It apparently takes its name from prisoners flinging notes on a string to one another, like flying a kite, as the activity was called.

In contemporary prison culture, kites are sent in a variety of creative ways, including when a prisoner passes a note while doing work such as laundry or delivering food. Kites may also be passed by addressing a letter to a fake address, putting the name and address of the intended recipient as the return address, and waiting for the post office to return to the “sender.”  

Kite has become common enough in prison culture that any message, especially a written request, is referred to as a kite, including among staff. Want to see a doctor, get moved to another cell block, or complain about a guard? Send a kite or kite it. And kites complaining about prison staff, by the way, are known as fan mail.

How is kite used in real life?

Both inmates and correctional staff use kite to refer to messages and communication. Messages from inmates to people outside prison may also be called kites.




This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use kite in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for kite (1 of 2)

/ (kaɪt) /


Derived forms of kite

kiter, noun

Word Origin for kite

Old English cӯta; related to Middle High German küze owl, Old Norse kӯta to quarrel

British Dictionary definitions for kite (2 of 2)

/ (kəɪt) /

a variant spelling of kyte
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with kite


see go fly a kite; high as a kite.

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