\ ˈflāl How to pronounce flail (audio) \

Definition of flail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a hand threshing implement consisting of a wooden handle at the end of which a stouter and shorter stick is so hung as to swing freely


flailed; flailing; flails

Definition of flail (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to strike with or as if with a flail The bird's wings flailed the water.
b : to move, swing, or beat as if wielding a flail flailing a club to drive away the insects
2 : to thresh (grain) with a flail

intransitive verb

: to move, swing, or beat like a flail arms flailing in the water

Synonyms for flail

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of flail in a Sentence

Verb They were flailing their arms to drive away the insects. The wounded animal lay on the ground, flailing helplessly. He was wildly flailing about on the dance floor. The bird's wings flailed the water.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Fists pump, arms flail, shoulders shimmy, hips swivel, feet stomp; every body part explores space. Jeffrey Gantz, BostonGlobe.com, 5 June 2022 Prominent managers that invest in both public and private companies in the same funds have seen their portfolio of public investments flail, weighed down by losses from January’s meme-stock rally and a retreat by fast-growing technology stocks. Juliet Chung, WSJ, 23 Oct. 2021 Something more extreme than its muted roar and strong airflow backing track seems appropriate for a vehicle whose logo is a powerful horse at full flail. Dave Vanderwerp, Car and Driver, 28 June 2021 As pledges to improve policing flail, police continue to kill people, and especially Black people, every day. Time, 13 May 2021 In the video, cats stay in the upside-down position and flail, and even pigeons can’t decide which way is up or down. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, 24 Aug. 2020 Fans no longer could complain about watching an overmatched pitcher flail at the plate. Los Angeles Times, 14 June 2020 Who could resist watching Dash flail about in a tornado, and then promptly stop and let out a very earnest cat meow? USA TODAY, 27 Mar. 2020 Super-deep repertoire of falls and flails, plus a classic crybaby Flop Face. Scott Ostler, SFChronicle.com, 18 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb When a person’s spine curves and strains in order to move weight through space—like when a bunch of third graders flail through a set of sit-ups—the movement stresses their spinal disks. Amanda Mull, The Atlantic, 28 May 2022 Meta continues to flail as a business that builds actual things, with the latest setbacks arriving this week. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 10 June 2022 As Russia continues to flail in Ukraine, a cast of familiar figures are attempting to suddenly rebrand themselves as alleged pro-Western forces on the right side of the fight: the oligarchs. Casey Michel, The New Republic, 12 May 2022 Hitters who hadn’t seen his changeup could only flail at it. Bobby Nightengale, The Enquirer, 1 June 2022 In fact, Ozark’s fourth and final season is basically just … a bunch of things keep happening to Marty and Wendy Byrde, who, naturally, flail around trying to dodge all of the falling knives. Andy Meek, BGR, 2 May 2022 Manager Bob Melvin attempted to sort things out, home and away, but seemed to flail at a tricky fastball in his own right. Bryce Millercolumnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 May 2022 For starters, there was a scene in which Dwight drove the bus and was supposed to suddenly swerve, causing everyone in the bus to flail to one side of the bus. Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY, 17 May 2022 His students soon join in and flail around with joy. Selome Hailu, Variety, 12 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'flail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of flail


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for flail

Noun and Verb

Middle English fleil, flail, partly from Old English *flegel (whence Old English fligel), from Late Latin flagellum flail, from Latin, whip & partly from Anglo-French flael, from Late Latin flagellum — more at flagellate

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Time Traveler for flail

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The first known use of flail was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Flail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flail. Accessed 11 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for flail


\ ˈflāl How to pronounce flail (audio) \
flailed; flailing

Kids Definition of flail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to wave the arms or legs wildly
2 : to swing something with a violent motion



Kids Definition of flail (Entry 2 of 2)

: a tool for threshing grain by hand


\ ˈflā(ə)l How to pronounce flail (audio) \

Medical Definition of flail

: exhibiting abnormal mobility and loss of response to normal controls used of body parts damaged by paralysis, injury, or surgery flail joint

More from Merriam-Webster on flail

Nglish: Translation of flail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about flail


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