fly

1 of 5

verb (1)

flew ˈflü How to pronounce fly (audio) ; flown ˈflōn How to pronounce fly (audio) ; flying

intransitive verb

1
a
: to move in or pass through the air with wings
bees flying around the hive
b
: to move through the air or before the wind or through outer space
bullets flying in all directions
c
: to float, wave, or soar in the air
flags flying at half-mast
2
a
: to take flight : flee
was forced to fly for his life when his enemies came into power
b
: to fade and disappear : vanish
mists flying before the morning sun
3
a
: to move, pass, or spread quickly
rumors were flying
b
: to be moved with sudden extreme emotion
flew into a rage
c
: to seem to pass quickly
the time simply flew
4
: to become expended or dissipated rapidly
After he became established in the town, his inheritance flew.
5
: to operate or travel in an airplane or spacecraft
They flew to Florida for their vacation.
6
: to work successfully : win popular acceptance
knew … a pure human-rights approach would not fly Charles Brydon

transitive verb

1
a
: to cause to fly, float, or hang in the air
flying a kite
b
: to operate (something, such as a balloon, aircraft, rocket, or spacecraft) in flight
c
: to journey over or through by flying
flew the Atlantic
2
a
: to flee or escape from
The bird had flown its cage.
b
: avoid, shun
fly such a talkative woman
3
: to transport by aircraft or spacecraft
Supplies were flown to the disaster area.

fly

2 of 5

noun (1)

plural flies
1
: the action or process of flying : flight
2
a
: a device consisting of two or more radial vanes capable of rotating on a spindle to act as a fan or to govern the speed of clockwork or very light machinery
b
3
flies plural : the space over a theater stage where scenery and equipment can be hung
4
: something attached by one edge: such as
a
: a garment closing concealed by a fold of cloth extending over the fastener
b(1)
: the length of an extended flag from its staff or support
(2)
: the outer or loose end of a flag
5
: a baseball hit high into the air
6
7
: a sheet of material (such as canvas) that is attachable to a tent for use as a double top or as a rooflike extension
8
: a football pass pattern in which the receiver runs straight downfield

fly

3 of 5

verb (2)

flied; flying

intransitive verb

: to hit a fly in baseball

fly

4 of 5

noun (2)

plural flies
1
: a winged insect
usually used in combination
mayfliesbutterfly
2
a
: any of a large order (Diptera) of winged or rarely wingless insects (such as the housefly, mosquito, or gnat) that have the anterior wings functional, the posterior wings reduced to halteres, and segmented often headless, eyeless, and legless larvae compare maggot
b
: a large stout-bodied fly
3
: a fishhook dressed (as with feathers or tinsel) to suggest an insect

fly

5 of 5

adjective

chiefly British
Phrases
fly at
: to assail suddenly and violently
He flew at me in a rage.
fly blind
: to fly an airplane solely by instruments
fly high
: to be elated
She was flying high after winning the contest.
fly in the face of or fly in the teeth of
: to stand or act forthrightly or brazenly in defiance or contradiction of
His explanation flies in the face of the evidence.
on the fly
1
: in motion : busy
2
: while still in the air : without the ball bouncing
the home run carried 450 feet on the fly
3
: in a hurry and often without preparation : hastily, spontaneously
making decisions on the fly
4
: simultaneously with another task
software that handles formatting on the fly
fly in the ointment
: a detracting factor or element

Word History

Etymology

Verb (1) and Noun (1)

Middle English flien, from Old English flēogan; akin to Old High German fliogan to fly and probably to Old English flōwan to flow

Noun (2)

Middle English flie, from Old English flēoge; akin to Old High German flioga fly, Old English flēogan to fly

Adjective

probably from fly entry 1

First Known Use

Verb (1)

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

Noun (1)

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

Verb (2)

1893, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

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

Adjective

1811, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near fly

Cite this Entry

“Fly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fly. Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

fly 1 of 4

verb

flew ˈflü How to pronounce fly (audio) ; flown ˈflōn How to pronounce fly (audio) ; flying
1
a
: to move in or pass through the air with wings
b
: to move through the air or with the wind
also : to move through outer space
c
: to float or cause to float, wave, or soar in the air
flags flying
fly a kite
2
: to take flight : flee
3
: to move or pass swiftly
time flies
4
a
: to operate or travel in an aircraft or spacecraft
b
: to journey over or through by flying
fly the Atlantic
c
: to transport by aircraft or spacecraft
fly at
: to attack suddenly and violently

fly

2 of 4

noun

plural flies
1
a
: a garment closing concealed by a fold of cloth
b
: the outer fabric of a tent with a double top
c
: the length of an extended flag
also : the loose end of a flag
2
: a baseball hit high into the air
on the fly
1
: in motion
2
: while still in the air
the home run carried 450 feet on the fly

fly

3 of 4

verb

flied; flying
: to hit a fly in baseball

fly

4 of 4

noun

plural flies
1
: a winged insect
2
: two-winged fly
especially : one (as a housefly) that is large and has a stout body in comparison with others (as a mosquito)
3
: a fishhook covered to look like an insect
fly in the ointment
: an unpleasant feature in something otherwise pleasant

Medical Definition

plural flies
1
: a winged insect
usually used in combination
emerging mayflies
a large butterfly
2
a
: any dipteran fly

called also true fly, two-winged fly

b
: a large and stout-bodied dipteran fly (as a horsefly)

Geographical Definition

Fly

geographical name

river 650 miles (1046 kilometers) long in southern New Guinea flowing southeast into the Gulf of Papua

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