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

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 Thousands turned out for the Gaspee Days Parade, slurping Del’s lemonade as bagpipes wailed, Clydesdales clip-clopped down a red-white-and-blue centerline, and the air filled with acrid clouds of musket smoke. Edward Fitzpatrick, BostonGlobe.com, "Once a desirable middle class destination, Warwick now faces financial stress," 13 June 2019 Remember the boos, wailing and whining after the Knicks selected Kristaps Porzingis with the No. oregonlive.com, "NBA draft 2019: Trail Blazers, Bol Bol, Pac-12, Oregon Ducks among 10 winners and losers," 21 June 2019 The woman sobbed, too, wailing that the girls were her daughters and hugging them in her arms. Washington Post, "The kidnapped Yazidi children who don’t want to be rescued from ISIS," 14 June 2019 In the initial game — interrupted briefly by a baby wailing in the stands, drawing a laugh from other spectators and prompting Nadal to back away from the baseline between serves — three of the five points lasted at least 11 strokes. Howard Fendrich, Twin Cities, "Dirty dozen: Rafael Nadal wins 12th French Open for 18th Slam title," 9 June 2019 His father wailed as the rescuers tried to free the body. Washington Post, "Syria uses familiar tactic in rebel Idlib: Bombing civilians," 7 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 The commuter train wails from the tracks above Lexington Avenue. New York Times, "‘All Was Going Well When I Noticed a Rustling Under Some Shrubbery’," 17 June 2019 That was the overwhelming reaction/wail from its riders during a preview of the energetic thrill ride on Tuesday afternoon. Dewayne Bevil, orlandosentinel.com, "Universal Orlando: New roller coaster features Hagrid, creatures, high-speed stretches, surprises," 11 June 2019 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

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

12 Jul 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

providing supplementary assistance

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!