flail·​ing ˈflā-liŋ How to pronounce flailing (audio)
: moving, swinging, or beating wildly like a flail
used especially of a person or a person's limbs
They dragged her toward cabin five, while the other campers made way to avoid her flailing feet.Rick Riordan
Vivid dreams made him lash out at me in his sleep with kicks and flailing arms.Jeremy Clarke
… the crowd erupts and the mosh pit pushes flailing bodies towards the stage.Samantha O'Connor
: beset by difficulties : struggling
a flailing economy
… phoned a friend to vent about his flailing marriage …Sarah Grossbart
: clumsy or ineffectual
their flailing attempts/efforts to save the company
flailingly adverb
… was walking along the ledge of a precipitous dropoff when he slipped on a mossy rock and fell flailingly into the current … Jim Mustian

Examples of flailing in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The devolution of the USA Network, where Suits first aired, tells the story of a flailing medium. Time, 11 Aug. 2023 In other words, there’s an immense gulf between the righteous, self-certain, swaggering American nationalist patriotism conservatives cherish—and the flailing, dysfunctional, all-but-delusional country that conservatives daily deliver to U.S. kids. Time, 12 July 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'flailing.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1882, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of flailing was in 1882

Dictionary Entries Near flailing

Cite this Entry

“Flailing.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flailing. Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

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