1 of 2


plural quail or quails
: any of numerous small gallinaceous birds: such as
: an Old World migratory game bird (Coturnix coturnix)

Illustration of quail

Illustration of quail


2 of 2


quailed; quailing; quails

intransitive verb

chiefly dialectal : wither, decline
: to give way : falter
his courage never quailed
: to recoil in dread or terror : cower
the strongest quail before financial ruinSamuel Butler †1902

transitive verb

archaic : to make fearful

Did you know?

Flinch, recoil, and wince are all synonyms of quail, but each word has a slightly different use. When you flinch, you fail to endure pain or to face something dangerous or frightening with resolution ("she faced her accusers without flinching"). Recoil implies a start or movement away from something through shock, fear, or disgust ("he recoiled at the suggestion of stealing"). Wince usually suggests a slight involuntary physical reaction to something ("she winced as the bright light suddenly hit her eyes"). Quail implies shrinking and cowering in fear ("he quailed before the apparition").

Choose the Right Synonym for quail

recoil, shrink, flinch, wince, blench, quail mean to draw back in fear or distaste.

recoil implies a start or movement away through shock, fear, or disgust.

recoiled at the suggestion of stealing

shrink suggests an instinctive recoil through sensitiveness, scrupulousness, or cowardice.

shrank from the unpleasant truth

flinch implies a failure to endure pain or face something dangerous or frightening with resolution.

faced her accusers without flinching

wince suggests a slight involuntary physical reaction (such as a start or recoiling).

winced in pain

blench implies fainthearted flinching.

stood their ground without blenching

quail suggests shrinking and cowering in fear.

quailed before the apparition

Example Sentences

Noun We had quail for dinner. Verb Other politicians quailed before him. He quailed at the thought of seeing her again.
Recent Examples on the Web
Both do magical things to crunchy, honeycombed segments of lotus root; scoops of gelatinous shrimp pâté, which firm up like meatballs in the heat; slippery little boiled quail eggs; and gorgeous, shell-on white shrimp. Hannah Goldfield, The New Yorker, 24 Feb. 2023 Other starters include pork trotter and sweetbread roulade with pearl onions and house smoked beef tartare, served with a pickled quail egg and potato chips. Tori Latham, Robb Report, 4 Oct. 2022 Here, chef Huy, who is 33 (hence the 1988), focuses on cuisine from his native northern Vietnam and makes everything in house — including the yeast for his signature whole-wheat steamed bao with ground beef and quail egg. Sara Lieberman, Travel + Leisure, 26 Nov. 2021 Vegetarian ceviche features hearts of palm, artichokes and chickpeas with pickled quail eggs. Janelle Bitker, SFChronicle.com, 8 July 2020 Kala Thai Cookery near Faneuil Hall and Cha Yen Thai Cookery in Watertown, where her innovative menu — quail eggs, hot basil sliders, shrimp doughnuts — has drawn a loyal following. Kara Baskin, BostonGlobe.com, 31 Jan. 2023 Bulgaria will begin culling about 25,000 quails and destroy quail eggs on an industrial farm near the capital Sofia after detecting a highly infectious strain of bird flu, the food safety authorities said on Wednesday. Fox News, 25 Jan. 2023 At Ngon Vietnamese Kitchen on Lower Greenville, this force field of comfort is decked out with even more adornments, such as thin slices of barbecue pork, heaping handfuls of chives, and tiny quail eggs that pop with soft yolks. Dallas News, 15 Dec. 2022 The group exposed different colored chicken, duck and quail eggs to sunlight and found that darker shells kept their heat longer than lighter ones. Leslie Nemo, Discover Magazine, 28 Oct. 2019
Attach tart tins, moss, and quail eggs with hot-glue. Charlyne Mattox, Country Living, 22 Feb. 2023 Menu items include beets with white asparagus, caracara, carrot and yogurt, quail with duxelles, pommes paolo and pomegranate, lamb with langoustine and bisque, and milk chocolate mousse torte. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, 9 Feb. 2023 Specials include red snapper with vanilla coconut milk, quail on a bed of red wine with bacon, and razor clams with lemon, thyme and shallots. Dallas News, 2 Feb. 2023 The researchers were able to reproduce the phenomenon in hydrogel balls soaked with salt water and even quail eggs. Nathaniel Scharping, Discover Magazine, 18 Feb. 2019 But turkey is too holidayish, quail too fussy, goose too oceanically fatty, cornish hens too self-consciously twee. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, 16 Feb. 2022 The book features exurban mega mansions, the elite Piedmont Driving Club, Freaknik, burgeoning immigrant neighborhood Chamblee, South Georgia quail plantations and Greek philosopher Epictetus. Rodney Ho, ajc, 7 Nov. 2021 Like Trigger, Goose is training to assist on dove, duck, and quail hunts. Kelli Bender, PEOPLE.com, 6 Oct. 2021 Experts say the studies will help identify limiting factors to quail population growth and refine the management needed to correct them. Dallas News, 18 Sep. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'quail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



Middle English quaile, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin quaccula, of imitative origin


Middle English, from Middle Dutch quelen

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of quail was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near quail

Cite this Entry

“Quail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quail. Accessed 25 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
plural quail or quails
: any of various mostly small plump game birds (as the bobwhite) that are related to the common domestic chicken


2 of 2 verb
: to lose courage : shrink in fear


Middle English quaile "quail (bird)," from early French quaile (same meaning), from Latin quaccula (same meaning), of imitative origin


Middle English quailen "to wither, decline," from early Dutch quelen (same meaning)

More from Merriam-Webster on quail

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