verb (used without object)

to lose heart or courage in difficulty or danger; shrink with fear.

Origin of quail

1400–50; late Middle English < Middle Dutch quelen, queilen
Related formsun·quail·ing, adjective

Synonyms for quail

Synonym study

See wince1.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for quailed

Historical Examples of quailed

  • She used to like Tris, but these few months her love has all quailed away.

    A Singer from the Sea

    Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

  • She wondered what stuff he was made of, to be so dashed and quailed by a dream.

    A Singer from the Sea

    Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

  • But she looked at him; and under that 105 look Seth quailed and shrank.

  • The other looked into his eyes and quailed, but blustered to the end.

    The Crevice

    William John Burns and Isabel Ostrander

  • The only thought before which he quailed was the thought that this could not last; that it must come to an end.

    Within the Tides

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for quailed



noun plural quails or quail

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

Word Origin for quail

C14: from Old French quaille, from Medieval Latin quaccula, probably of imitative origin




(intr) to shrink back with fear; cower

Word Origin for quail

C15: perhaps from Old French quailler, from Latin coāgulāre to curdle
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 quailed



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper