flail

noun
\ 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

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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Synonyms for flail

Synonyms: Verb

beat, flap, flop, flutter, whip

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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

The borderlands have no courts and tribal police flail in the face of paperwork and investigations. The Economist, "Pakistan’s borderlands at last win a say in their own administration," 20 July 2019 Thus, the outsize significance of the wedding ring, a clumsy flail toward concretizing what is essentially ethereal. Jennifer Bernstein, Vox, "Even as I question the institution of marriage and all its traditions, I find myself still wanting a ring.," 3 July 2019 Hence the Nasdaq swings higher than the other indices when the Big Four fly high and falls more rapidly when the Big Four flail. Allan Sloan, Washington Post, "Instead of ranting about market’s ‘mistake,’ let me issue a warning about ‘correction’," 7 June 2019 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Against this supersized backdrop Viacom, a content provider with a market value of nearly $12bn, and CBS, a television network worth some $18bn, look like flailing minnows. The Economist, "Viacom and CBS agree to reunite," 14 Aug. 2019 So after every shooting massacre, when more innocent people are murdered by some wacko with a firearm designed for mass killing, there’s tough talk, screaming and flailing for a few days. George Skelton, The Mercury News, "Skelton: Why Americans still don’t have meaningful gun controls," 11 Aug. 2019 So after every shooting massacre, when more innocent people are murdered by some wacko with a firearm designed for mass killing, there’s tough talk, screaming and flailing for a few days. Los Angeles Times, "Gun control has been doomed by single-issue voters. Will that ever change?," 8 Aug. 2019 The Broncos have been flailing about trying to find a quarterback since Peyton Manning retired. oregonlive.com, "Is Joe Flacco the answer at QB? 10 questions for the Denver Broncos as training camp opens," 1 Aug. 2019 In the 90-second cellphone recording, Davion tugs another young man down a stoop, fists flailing like a teenage boy on the brink. Ali Watkins, New York Times, "‘I Just Wish We Could’ve Made It’," 27 July 2019 But these seemed not the result of flailing batters but rather pitching brilliance. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "American League wins MLB All-Star Game to extend winning streak to seven games," 9 July 2019 Brazilians are reeling from the country’s rampant corruption problem, escalating crime rates, and flailing economy, and the two candidates presented very different approaches to those problems. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s Trumpian candidate, narrowly misses outright victory," 8 Oct. 2018 What’s more, union activism can help bridge the yawning power dynamic that now separates tech monopolies from the flailing media sector. Clio Chang, The New Republic, "How to Save Journalism," 11 July 2019

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 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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Statistics for flail

Last Updated

2 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 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

flail

noun

Kids Definition of flail (Entry 2 of 2)

: a tool for threshing grain by hand

flail

adjective
\ 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on flail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with flail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for flail

Spanish Central: Translation of flail

Nglish: Translation of flail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about flail

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