We're working on a new site. Click here to get a sneak preview.
Word of the Day


audio pronunciation
September 15, 2012
: to give way : falter
: to recoil in dread or terror : cower
Douglas quailed when the dentist told him that he would need a root canal.

"There's an already notorious scene in a bathtub, involving the extraction of toenails, which would send Mary Whitehouse quailing ashen-faced for the exit, if she'd even made it that far." — From a film review by Tom Robey in The (London) Telegraph, November 17, 2011
Get the Word of the Day direct to your inbox — subscribe today!
Did You Know?
"Flinch," "recoil," and "wince" are all synonyms of "quail," but each word has a slightly different use. When you flinch, you fail to endure pain or to face something dangerous or frightening with resolution ("she faced her accusers without flinching"). "Recoil" implies a start or movement away from something through shock, fear, or disgust ("he recoiled at the suggestion of stealing"). "Wince" usually suggests a slight involuntary physical reaction to something ("she winced as the bright light suddenly hit her eyes"). "Quail" implies shrinking and cowering in fear ("he quailed before the apparition").

Test Your Memory: What recent Word of the Day begins with "p" and can refer to a line of bold cliffs? The answer is ...
More Words of the Day
Visit our archives to see previous selections.
How to use a word that (literally) drives some people nuts.
Test your vocab with our fun, fast game
Ailurophobia, and 9 other unusual fears