wail

1 of 2

verb

wailed; wailing; wails

intransitive verb

1
: to express sorrow audibly : lament
2
: to make a sound suggestive of a mournful cry
3
: to express dissatisfaction plaintively : complain

transitive verb

1
: to say or express plaintively
wailed that her cake was ruined
2
archaic : bewail
wailer noun

wail

2 of 2

noun

1
a
: a usually prolonged cry or sound expressing grief or pain
b
: a sound suggestive of wailing
the wail of an air-raid siren
c
: a querulous expression of grievance : complaint
2
: the act or practice of wailing : loud lamentation

Examples of wail in a Sentence

Verb The child started wailing after she stumbled and fell. A saxophone wailed in the background. “No! I don't want to go!” he wailed. She wailed that the vacation was ruined. Noun the wail of a siren a prolonged wail arose from every corner of the city as the victims of the earthquake were unearthed from the rubble
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
But the hard-working band is getting some help this year from My Morning Jacket — the similarly incendiary live act that mashes hard-driving guitars, wailing vocals and county twang into cosmically beautiful tunes. John Wenzel, The Denver Post, 25 Mar. 2024 My son was somewhere in a nursery behind her; so were dozens of other wailing newborns. Clarissa Wei, The New Yorker, 23 Mar. 2024 Hendrix's wailing guitar can soundtrack Vietnam or Civil Rights protest footage or hippy hedonism and be equally at home with either. James Powel, USA TODAY, 4 Mar. 2024 Congressional phone lines were subsequently flooded with tens of thousands of distraught children wailing about their favorite toy being taken away. The Editors, National Review, 12 Mar. 2024 Activists covered in fake blood have wailed during city council meetings in Ojai in recent months, and many more have followed President Biden during his campaign stops across the country. Nathan Solis, Los Angeles Times, 8 Mar. 2024 The lullaby wails and fading bells imbue the track with a layer of sunken whimsy — like the moment a child realizes Santa isn’t real and nobody lives forever. Peter A. Berry, Variety, 15 Mar. 2024 Jasmine wails loudly in devastation, which both her microphone, and the ears of other cast members rooms away, pick up. Kelly Wynne, Peoplemag, 8 Mar. 2024 Martin has a gorgeous, rich tone that pairs well with the wailing guitars and plucky rhythm that comprise ZJ Chrome’s riddim. Kyle Denis, Billboard, 28 Feb. 2024
Noun
Unlike Edvard Munch’s epic, open-mouthed, two-handed wail, the faces in Johnson’s art are tranquil and composed, not emotional. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 2024 In Las Vegas, the cacophony of voices, music, ringing slot machines and car horns that typically pulsed through the Las Vegas Strip was replaced by silence, the chirps of birds and the wails of sirens. Alicia Wallace, CNN, 8 Feb. 2024 But then, this community has more reason than most to fear the wails of mourning women. Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Jan. 2024 Rose exhales the unworldly wail of the very young, Helen lies down with Rose at her breast. Audrey Wollen, The New Yorker, 3 Nov. 2023 With no noise to cover the wails of the stock one, customers would hear the horrors of engineering. Alex Goy, Ars Technica, 31 July 2023 The Boy and the Heron opens with a sharp wail of a siren — something has gone wrong, something bad. Vulture, 24 Jan. 2024 His soaring, shredding wails coil time and sound upside down until Eric A’s basslines lift us over the line of threat and into the killing zone where Dave Navarro’s guitar detonates. Matt Thompson, SPIN, 9 Jan. 2024 Cue more sofa wails and pitying looks at family gatherings when relatives ask you about your love life. Olivia Petter, Vogue, 19 Dec. 2023

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

Word History

Etymology

Verb

Middle English weilen, waylen, perhaps modification (influenced by Middle English weilawei wellaway) of Old Norse væla, vāla to wail; akin to Old Norse vei woe — more at woe

First Known Use

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near wail

Cite this Entry

“Wail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wail. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

wail

1 of 2 verb
1
: to express sorrow by mournful cries : lament
2
: to make a sound like a mournful cry
3
: to express dissatisfaction : complain
wailer noun

wail

2 of 2 noun
1
: a long cry or sound of grief or pain
2
: a sound like a wail
the wail of a siren

More from Merriam-Webster on wail

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