- a small, migratory, gallinaceous game bird, Coturnix coturnix, of the Old World.
- any of several other birds of the genus Coturnix and allied genera.
- any of various New World gallinaceous game birds of the genus Colinus and allied genera, especially the bobwhite.
- Slang. a woman or girl.
Origin of quail1
- to lose heart or courage in difficulty or danger; shrink with fear.
Origin of quail2
SynonymsSee more synonyms for quail on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for quail
The sound of birds, quail, even doe, make a wild grid of noise.The Story Behind Lee Marvin’s Liberty Valance Smile
January 3, 2015
Deer, dove, and quail hunting is a right of passage in the Lone Star state.Guns Are Killing The Republican Party
January 9, 2013
Despite the lessons of the last four years, the banking sector in the U.K. is still too big to quail, let alone fail.Barclays, NatWest, LIBOR: Britain’s ‘Perfect Storm’ of Scandal
July 3, 2012
At the Quail Hollow Tournament, he missed the cut, shooting a second round seven-over 79.Tiger Woods Is Never Coming Back
April 14, 2011
Oddly, Cheney would only manage to shoot a friend while quail hunting and, apparently, on the booze a bit too much.A Tale of Two Vice Presidents
May 31, 2009
She signed to the Seven, and they came huddling to her like quail; she put them behind her.
Quail ran in droves and rose among the mesas like young thunder.
Out in the back-pasture, a quail could flutter up under his nose unharmed.White Fang
The plant comes from an egg, which is about the size of a quail's egg.The Mushroom, Edible and Otherwise
M. E. Hard
Here is a task before which we quail in this generation of vast vistas.College Teaching
- any small Old World gallinaceous game bird of the genus Coturnix and related genera, having a rounded body and small tail: family Phasianidae (pheasants)
- any of various similar and related American birds, such as the bobwhite
- (intr) to shrink back with fear; cower
Word Origin and History for quail
migratory game bird, late 14c. (early 14c. as a surname (Quayle), from Old French quaille (Modern French caille), perhaps via Medieval Latin quaccula (source also of Provençal calha, Italian quaglia, Old Spanish coalla), or directly from a Germanic source (cf. Dutch kwakkel, Old High German quahtala "quail," German Wachtel, Old English wihtel), imitative of the bird's cry. Or the English word might be directly from Proto-Germanic. Slang meaning "young attractive woman" first recorded 1859.
c.1400, "have a morbid craving;" early 15c., "grow feeble or sick;" mid-15c., "to fade, fail, give way," of unknown origin, perhaps from Middle Dutch quelen "to suffer, be ill," from Proto-Germanic *kwel- "to die" (see quell). Or from obsolete quail "to curdle" (late 14c.), from Old French coailler, from Latin coagulare (see coagulate). Sense of "lose heart, shrink, cower" is attested from 1550s. According to OED, common 1520-1650, then rare until 19c., when apparently it was revived by Scott. Related: Quailed; quailing.