flayed; flaying; flays

transitive verb

: to strip off the skin or surface of : skin
The hunter flayed the rabbit and prepared it for cooking.
: to criticize harshly : excoriate
He was flayed by the media for his controversial comments.
: lash sense 1b
the wind whipped up to gale fury, flaying his faceRichard Kent

Examples of flay in a Sentence

her husband flayed her constantly for her incessant shopping flayed their kill right there in the forest, taking both the meat and the skin home
Recent Examples on the Web Inside, a man is stretching skin on a flaying bench, and the stench of death is overwhelming. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 26 June 2023 At El Submarino, the bluish raw shrimp are flayed down the middle and fanned out in a molcajete, over cucumber and beneath red onion and avocado. Hannah Goldfield, The New Yorker, 23 June 2023 Perfect for flaying open your heart on a summer afternoon, with a glass of something cool to soothe the sting. Olivia Waite, New York Times, 23 June 2023 But notice how the more recent line looks only inward with an excoriating, flaying gaze — a whine of very public desperation. James Robins, Vulture, 1 May 2023 With surgical precision and raucous glee, Row flays his characters and exposes their smugness. Hamilton Cain, Washington Post, 30 Mar. 2023 But there were still butchers– one of our ancestral species, Australopithecus afarensis, was already using stone tools to flay meat off bones, leaving small nicks with every cut. Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 11 Aug. 2010 Onlookers gather to watch performers flay their cheeks open, sew their eyelids closed, and remove visceral organs that grow without clear physiologic purpose. Wired, 11 Aug. 2022 But Republicans cited the recent deceleration in hiring to flay Mr. Biden’s economic policies. New York Times, 7 Jan. 2022 See More

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

Word History


Middle English flen, from Old English flēan; akin to Old Norse flā to flay, Lithuanian plėšti to tear

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of flay was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near flay

Cite this Entry

“Flay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flay. Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


: to strip off the skin or surface of : skin
: to scold severely

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