• synonyms


See more synonyms for wail on Thesaurus.com
verb (used without object)
  1. to utter a prolonged, inarticulate, mournful cry, usually high-pitched or clear-sounding, as in grief or suffering: to wail with pain.
  2. to make mournful sounds, as music or the wind.
  3. to lament or mourn bitterly.
  4. Jazz. to perform exceptionally well.
  5. Slang. to express emotion musically or verbally in an exciting, satisfying way.
Show More
verb (used with object)
  1. to express deep sorrow for; mourn; lament; bewail: to wail the dead; to wail one's fate.
  2. to express in wailing; cry or say in lamentation: to wail one's grief.
Show More
  1. the act of wailing.
  2. a wailing cry, as of grief, pain, or despair.
  3. any similar mournful sound: the wail of an old tune.
Show More

Origin of wail

1300–50; Middle English weile (v. and noun), perhaps derivative of Old English weilā(wei) well-away; compare Old English wǣlan to torment, Old Norse wǣla to wail
Related formswail·er, nounwail·ing·ly, adverbun·wailed, adjectiveun·wail·ing, adjective
Can be confusedwail whale
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

moan, sob, fuss, whimper, grieve, mourn, weep, howl, bemoan, bewail, jowl, lament, repine, whine, bawl, bay, squall, keen, deplore, complain

Examples from the Web for wailed

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Hippy said he pounded and shouted and howled and wailed and pounded some more.

  • "Oh, it makes me so lonesome when you sing that way," wailed the Little Colonel.

    The Little Colonel

    Annie Fellows Johnston

  • "But Papa Jack would die befo' he'd take help from you," she wailed.

    The Little Colonel

    Annie Fellows Johnston

  • The watchers wept and wailed at first, and then fell to eating and drinking.

    Welsh Fairy Tales

    William Elliott Griffis

  • "Tom don' want to go to the poor-farm," he wailed piteously.

    The Village Watch-Tower

    (AKA Kate Douglas Riggs) Kate Douglas Wiggin

British Dictionary definitions for wailed


  1. (intr) to utter a prolonged high-pitched cry, as of grief or misery
  2. (intr) to make a sound resembling such a crythe wind wailed in the trees
  3. (tr) to lament, esp with mournful sounds
Show More
  1. a prolonged high-pitched mournful cry or sound
Show More
Derived Formswailer, nounwailful, adjectivewailfully, adverb

Word Origin

C14: of Scandinavian origin; related to Old Norse vǣla to wail, Old English woe
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 wailed



c.1400; see wail (v.).

Show More



early 14c., from Old Norse væla "to lament," from "woe" (see woe). Of jazz musicians, "to play very well," attested from 1955, American English slang (wailing "excellent" is attested from 1954). Related: Wailed.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper