1 of 2


: one that seeks to evade responsibilities and especially creditors by flight
: one without established reputation or standing
especially : a shaky business enterprise


2 of 2


: given to making a quick profit usually by shady or irresponsible acts
: transitory, passing
fly-by-night fashions

Examples of fly-by-night in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Using a multitude of shell companies, aliases and fly-by-night phone providers allegedly under their control, the people behind the network — which CNN has previously reported on — had sought to dupe unwitting consumers into buying shoddy service contracts for their vehicles since 2018. Brian Fung, CNN, 4 Aug. 2023 The clubs’ finances, too, can be surprisingly fly-by-night. Ahmed Al Omran, New York Times, 13 July 2023
But even before that, AMPAS leaders tackled the issue of moviegoing, since the new fly-by-night entertainment had evolved into an industry. Tim Gray, Chicago Tribune, 5 Mar. 2023 But now, allowing every fly-by-night oversees judgment-proof vendor to ship sales directly into American households is Customs anarchy. Kenneth Rapoza, Forbes, 19 Feb. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fly-by-night.' 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


1822, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1914, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of fly-by-night was in 1822

Dictionary Entries Near fly-by-night

Cite this Entry

“Fly-by-night.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

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