Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary
1

wail

play
verb \ˈwāl\

Simple Definition of wail

  • : to make a loud, long cry of sadness or pain

  • : to make a long, high sound

  • : to complain in a loud voice

Full Definition of wail

  1. intransitive verb
  2. 1 :  to express sorrow audibly :  lament

  3. 2 :  to make a sound suggestive of a mournful cry

  4. 3 :  to express dissatisfaction plaintively :  complain

  5. transitive verb
  6. 1 archaic :  bewail

  7. 2 :  to say or express plaintively <wailed that her cake was ruined>

wail·er play \ˈwā-lər\ noun

Examples of wail

  1. The child started wailing after she stumbled and fell.

  2. A saxophone wailed in the background.

  3. No! I don't want to go! he wailed.

  4. She wailed that the vacation was ruined.



Origin of wail

Middle English weilen, waylen, perhaps modification (influenced by Middle English weilawei wellaway) of Old Norse væla, vāla to wail; akin to Old Norse vei woe — more at woe


First Known Use: 14th century


2

wail

noun

Simple Definition of wail

  • : a long cry of sadness or pain

  • : a long, high sound

Full Definition of wail

  1. 1 :  the act or practice of wailing :  loud lamentation

  2. 2 a :  a usually prolonged cry or sound expressing grief or pain b :  a sound suggestive of wailing <the wail of an air-raid siren> c :  a querulous expression of grievance :  complaint

Examples of wail

  1. the wail of a siren

  2. <a prolonged wail arose from every corner of the city as the victims of the earthquake were unearthed from the rubble>



15th Century

First Known Use of wail

15th century



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up wail? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

February 7, 2016

a slight offense

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

image1037863653

Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

kittly-benders spindrift pince-nez duvet
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ