wail

verb
\ ˈwāl How to pronounce wail (audio) \
wailed; wailing; wails

Definition of wail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

wail

noun

Definition of wail (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act or practice of wailing : loud lamentation
2a : 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from wail

Verb

wailer \ ˈwā-​lər How to pronounce wailer (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for wail

Synonyms: Verb

beef, bellyache, bitch, bleat, carp, caterwaul, complain, crab, croak, fuss, gripe, grizzle, grouch, grouse, growl, grumble, grump, holler, inveigh, keen, kick, kvetch, maunder [chiefly British], moan, murmur, mutter, nag, repine, scream, squawk, squeal, whimper, whine, whinge [British], yammer, yawp (or yaup), yowl

Synonyms: Noun

groan, howl, keen, lament, lamentation, moan, plaint

Antonyms: Verb

crow, delight, rejoice

Antonyms: Noun

exultation, rejoicing

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The president could have ended the policy of ripping scared, wailing kids from immigrant parents at the border with a phone call to his attorney general. Fabiola Santiago, miamiherald, "Kids in cages did not move Trump to end separation policy. It was our outrage.," 20 June 2018 The Israeli army said several dozen rockets had been fired into Israel on Monday and Tuesday, as air raid sirens wailed across southern Israel. Fares Akram, The Seattle Times, "Israel, Gaza militants in 2nd day of cross-border fighting," 25 Mar. 2019 The episode opens with pictures of North Koreans wailing in terror and anguish at Kim’s funeral. Dorothy Rabinowitz, WSJ, "‘The Dictator’s Playbook’ Review: Tyranny 101," 10 Jan. 2019 Israel’s military said several mortar shells were fired even after Hamas announced the cease-fire as sirens warning of incoming projectiles wailed in Israel overnight again. Fox News, "Cease-fire appears to hold after barrage of Israel-Hamas airstrikes," 16 July 2018 Onfroy was killed instantly; the attackers fled with a Louis Vuitton bag containing a few thousand dollars, while bystanders filmed Onfroy’s lifeless body and posted the footage to social media as emergency vehicle sirens wailed in the background. Dan Rys, Billboard, "Grappling With The Complicated Life and Painful Death of XXXTentacion," 29 June 2018 More tears, mixed with some wailing for good measure. Kim Fusaro, Woman's Day, "Why Do Babies Choose the Worst Times to Have Meltdowns?," 8 Sep. 2010 Sopranos Ah Young Hong and Kiera Duffy wept and wailed. Mark Swed, latimes.com, "This year's Ojai Music Festival was bright, and dark, and very very hot," 12 June 2018 While some cities burned, Boston danced and sang and wailed along with James Brown. Kevin Cullen, BostonGlobe.com, "Blowing the horn for freedom," 5 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Cries and wails erupted when the casket of a local Ahvaz hero, 54-year-old Hossein Monjazi, a disabled war veteran and Revolutionary Guard member who had lost a leg and a hand in the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s, was brought out. Fox News, "Iran holds funerals for victims of terror attack in Ahvaz," 24 Sep. 2018 With television and social media awash with images and wails of young children torn from migrant families, Republicans want to pass a narrower measure addressing those separations should the broader bill fail. Alan Fram And Lisa Mascaro, chicagotribune.com, "Far-reaching Republican immigration bill careening toward likely House rejection," 27 June 2018 The earthquake knocked out power and telecommunication towers, meaning sirens didn’t wail and alerts didn’t light up mobile phones. Andi Jatmiko, The Seattle Times, "Indonesia expert warned of quake, gov’t mapped risk areas," 9 Oct. 2018 If something trips the system and nobody enters the disarming code in time, a built-in alarm wails. David Pierce, WSJ, "Home Security Systems That Are Fast, Easy and Totally Not Creepy," 26 Aug. 2018 Juice WRLD sings in his now-signature thin wail, typically put in service of far lighter subject matter. Jon Pareles, New York Times, "The Playlist: Paul McCartney’s Smooth Tunes, and 13 More New Songs," 22 June 2018 Why aren’t the recorded wails of her mother and the tears of her father enough for the whole world to be demanding justice right now? Rachel Elizabeth Cargle, Harper's BAZAAR, "When Feminism Is White Supremacy in Heels," 16 Aug. 2018 The overlap created new drones, rhythms, rumbles and wails, with the whole ensemble gradually increasing the sound to a nearly unbearable volume and intensity. Heidi Waleson, WSJ, "‘The Force of Things’ Review: Music Made Visible," 7 Aug. 2018 An electric guitar wails, and a keyboard chimes right in. Kristina Stewart Ward, ELLE Decor, "Gilles Mendel's Fashion-Forward Home," 5 Jan. 2010

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

See More

First Known Use of wail

Verb

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

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for wail

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about wail

Dictionary Entries near wail

Waiilatpuan

Waikato

Waikiki

wail

Wailaki

wailful

wailingly

Statistics for wail

Last Updated

19 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for wail

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for wail

wail

verb

English Language Learners Definition of wail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to make a loud, long cry of sadness or pain
: to make a long, high sound
: to complain in a loud voice

wail

noun

English Language Learners Definition of wail (Entry 2 of 2)

: a long cry of sadness or pain
: a long, high sound

wail

verb
\ ˈwāl How to pronounce wail (audio) \
wailed; wailing

Kids Definition of wail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to make a long, loud cry of pain or grief
2 : to complain with a loud voice

wail

noun

Kids Definition of wail (Entry 2 of 2)

: a long cry of grief or pain

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on wail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wail

Spanish Central: Translation of wail

Nglish: Translation of wail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wail for Arabic Speakers

Comments on wail

What made you want to look up wail? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to move or proceed with twists and turns

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!