verb (used without object)
verb (used with object)
- to go vigorously into action; begin to act; attack.
- to attack verbally: He would sail into his staff when work was going badly.
- to set the sail or sails of a boat or increase the amount of sail already set.
- to set out on a voyage: Make sail for the Leeward Islands.
Origin of sail
- to run up the sail or to run up more sail
- to begin a voyage
- to embark on a voyage by ship
- to hoist sail
- with sail hoisted
- under way
verb (mainly intr)
- to begin (something) with vigour
- to make an attack (on) violently with words or physical force
Word Origin for sail
Old English segl "sail, veil, curtain," from Proto-Germanic *seglom (cf. Old Saxon, Swedish segel, Old Norse segl, Old Frisian seil, Dutch zeil, Old High German segal, German Segel), of obscure origin with no known cognates outside Germanic (Irish seol, Welsh hwyl "sail" are Germanic loan-words). In some sources (Klein, OED) referred to PIE root *sek- "to cut," as if meaning "a cut piece of cloth." To take the wind out of (someone's) sails (1888) is to deprive (someone) of the means of progress, especially by sudden and unexpected action, "as by one vessel sailing between the wind and another vessel," ["The Encyclopaedic Dictionary," 1888].
Old English segilan "travel on water in a ship; equip with a sail," from the same Germanic source as sail (n.); cognate with Old Norse sigla, Middle Dutch seghelen, Dutch zeilen, Middle Low German segelen, German segeln. Meaning "to set out on a sea voyage, leave port" is from c.1200. Related: Sailed; sailing.
trim one's sails
Modify one's stand, adapt to circumstances, as in His advisers told him to trim his sails before he alienated voters and bungled the election completely. This metaphoric expression alludes to adjusting a ship's sails to take full advantage of prevailing winds. [Late 1700s]
In addition to the idioms beginning with sail
- sail close to the wind
- sail into
- sail through
- sail under false colors
- (sail under) false colors
- plain sailing
- set sail
- smooth sailing
- take the wind out of one's sails
- trim one's sails