flail

noun
\ ˈflāl \

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

flail

verb
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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

For good measure, still in mid-flail, LeBron takes a gratuitous swipe at Bogey’s face. Gregg Doyel, Indianapolis Star, "Doyel: Who can stop LeBron? No one. But Pacers Bogdanovic has done a better job than most.," 17 Apr. 2018 Included in the anatomical arsenal were tails that evolved to act like flails, spikes, bats and clubs. Nicholas St. Fleur, New York Times, "Where Did Animals With Tail Weapons Go? Here’s a Back Story," 16 Jan. 2018 Among the tactics, no shtick is simultaneously as eye-catching and absurd as the spastic flail of a perky nylon tube with vaguely human features. Eric Tingwall, Car and Driver, "How the Wacky Waving Inflatable Tube Man Pulls Off Those Fresh Moves," 17 Oct. 2017 To president Trump and his administration, the quest for tax reform looks like repeal and replace (i.e. flail and disgrace) all over again. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Is Afraid His Tax Plan Is Doomed. He Should Be.," 18 Oct. 2017 Outdoors, its interactions with the wind give the inflatable its erratic flail. Eric Tingwall, Car and Driver, "How the Wacky Waving Inflatable Tube Man Pulls Off Those Fresh Moves," 17 Oct. 2017 With two outs, Bauer toyed with Javier Baez, throwing a 1-0 strike past him before throwing consecutive pitches way out of the strike zone and watching the young second baseman flail at them wildly to end the inning. Benjamin Hoffman And David Waldstein, New York Times, "World Series: Here’s How the Chicago Cubs Won Game 5," 30 Oct. 2016 Scott appears on one mediocre chorus after another, and the rest of rap's younger generation flail along with him. Maeve Mcdermott, USA TODAY, "Beyond its singles, DJ Khaled's 'Grateful' is 90 minutes of pain," 23 June 2017 For Christina Mallon, who has what doctors think is a rare form of A.L.S. (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) called flail arm syndrome, every task can become a challenge. Valeriya Safronova, New York Times, "Designing for All Abilities," 9 May 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

While Wilson was flailing about, Coburn stood calmly on the ice. Kevin Allen, USA TODAY, "Capitals' Tom Wilson goes berserk, then punches off Lightning player's helmet in Game 7 fight," 23 May 2018 This may be the president’s excuse now for Republicans flailing in their effort to adopt immigration legislation. Chad Pergram, Fox News, "Trump amplifying calls to ditch the legislative filibuster as midterms near," 4 July 2018 Otherwise, you’re Chris, flailing a little in the relatively calm water. Rebecca Farley, refinery29.com, "The Bachelorette Season 14, Episode 5 Recap: Your Greatest Power," 26 June 2018 When Walker's flailing arm caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, a penalty was awarded and Sassi slotted it in to equalize. Rob Harris, chicagotribune.com, "Late header from Harry Kane gives England 2-1 win over Tunisia," 18 June 2018 The grand design of this more than 7½-hour work is revealed only through the gradual movement of the minds of the characters, who are flailing in extremis for a path out of abandonment, betrayal, bad faith and overwhelming terror. Charles Mcnulty, latimes.com, "For the Berkeley Rep revival of 'Angels in America,' the play is the thing," 29 May 2018 The Congress party has been flailing in local election ever since Modi’s rise to power and it has now been reduced to governing only one key state, Punjab, out of India’s 29 states. Washington Post, "India’s Hindu nationalists defeat Congress in state election," 17 May 2018 There was that behemoth of a rookie (Aaron Judge) going from uncontrollably flailing away in a 2016 audition to leading the AL in homers in lifting the Yankees into just their second postseason berth since 2013. Jeff Sanders, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Baseball set for wild postseason scramble," 2 Oct. 2017 The still seems to take place during a battle, as told by the surrounding smoke and flames and the warriors flailing in the background. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "New Game of Thrones Photos Tease a War Even Bigger Than "Battle of the Bastards"," 22 May 2017

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.

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First Known Use of flail

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb

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

History and Etymology for flail

Noun

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

Verb

see flail entry 1

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Statistics for flail

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Time Traveler for flail

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

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More Definitions for flail

flail

noun

English Language Learners Definition of flail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a long-handled tool that was used in the past for beating wheat so that the grain would become separated from the wheat

flail

verb

English Language Learners Definition of flail (Entry 2 of 2)

: to move or swing your arms or legs in a wild and uncontrolled way

: to strike or hit (something or someone) in a wild and uncontrolled way

flail

verb
\ ˈflāl \
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

flail

noun

Kids Definition of flail (Entry 2 of 2)

: a tool for threshing grain by hand

flail

adjective
\ ˈflā(ə)l \

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

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