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

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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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

One woman wailed immediately after leaving the courtroom after the hearing ended. oregonlive.com, "Woman accused of killing Portland State University basketball player brother, shooting 2 other relatives, appears in court," 5 Aug. 2019 Pennebaker’s camera was there at the dawn of the American rock festival, documenting Janis Joplin wailing, Jimi Hendrix blazing and Otis Redding testifying at 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival. Eric Harvey, Los Angeles Times, "Remember rock stars? With Bob Dylan and ‘Dont Look Back,’ D.A. Pennebaker invented the ideal," 4 Aug. 2019 Booth asks Clem to change his car tire, and when Clem refuses, Booth wails on him—hard, fast, drawing blood. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Quentin Tarantino’s Ultimate Statement on Movie Violence," 2 Aug. 2019 Wreath laying ceremonies by state leaders are planned and sirens will wail at 5 p.m. (1500 GMT), the hour when the rising began. Washington Post, "Ex-nurse recalls failed 1944 Polish revolt against Germans," 1 Aug. 2019 Sirens were constantly wailing as the wounded were evacuated on stretchers to nearby ambulances. Greg Norman, Fox News, "Dozens of Palestinians dead in border clashes with Israel as embassy opens in Jerusalem," 14 May 2018 Nurses tended to patients outside in the dark as sirens wailed. Paul Vercammen, CNN, "Patients wheeled out of a hospital, some still hooked to IVs, after earthquake hits," 6 July 2019 The guitarists ascended into the heavens on mechanical platforms, wailing away as if nu-metal had never fallen from grace, with the occasional Styx or Muse flourish. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Summerfest 2019: Skillet, Semisonic, more of the best and worst from the side stages on Day 10," 6 July 2019 Women slept in hallways or in the dining hall among rats, cockroaches and pigeon droppings, as children wailed, mothers reused diapers and guards treated everyone with contempt. Fox News, "Overcrowding, abuse seen at Mexico migrant detention center," 17 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Conversations carry on at 60 decibels (dB), vacuum cleaners whir at 70, alarm clocks wail at 80, stadiums can rock as loud as 130. Jennifer Emerling, National Geographic, "Seeking silence on a California road trip," 6 Aug. 2019 In the summer, musicians wail on guitars and fire breathers entertain passersby on the street paved with red brick. NBC News, "On Dayton's 'little Bourbon Street,' city unites after a mass shooting," 5 Aug. 2019 The fact that Mother Jones herself isn’t currently haunting the offices of that magazine with a blood-curdling wail after a take that bad is proof that ghosts don’t exist. Luke O'neil, Longreads, "The Wind Sometimes Feels in Error," 29 July 2019 Prisoners have been known to interminably wail and bang on the walls of their cells, the lawsuit claims. Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post, "Colorado’s Supermax prison now occupied by El Chapo is “worse than death,” ex-warden said," 27 July 2019 During the Vietnam War, Jimi Hendrix twisted the tune into a dissonant wail. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "The “Star-Spangled Banner” Controversy That Altered the Course of American Music," 2 July 2019 Speaking over the wail of a police siren, a grinding organ and cars swishing past the sculpture, art historian Alberto Híjar said the anti-monuments are a way of occupying public space more permanently than with protest marches. Washington Post, "Mexico ‘anti-monuments’ recall dark moments, demand justice," 30 June 2019 The sun is still high in the Alaskan summer sky when the call comes in at 9:47 p.m. Sirens wail, and eight smokejumpers race to the suit-up racks. Mark Jenkins, National Geographic, "When wildfires break out, this elite team of ‘smokejumpers’ parachute in," 12 June 2019 Those crying remove themselves from the circle, their staccato wails fill the small cemetery like a bird song. Nina Strochlic, National Geographic, "Mourning refugees risk a war zone to bury their dead at home," 20 June 2019

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.

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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

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Dictionary Entries near wail

Waiilatpuan

Waikato

Waikiki

wail

Wailaki

wailful

wailingly

Statistics for wail

Last Updated

9 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for wail

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

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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

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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

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