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



Definition of wail (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : 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

Other Words from wail


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

Synonyms & Antonyms for wail

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

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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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In summer, as their lands became parched, the tribes would send envoys to wail in distress at the Persian king’s palace doors; the king would then order one dam to be opened to benefit those who wailed loudest, and then the others in turn. James Romm, The New York Review of Books, 6 July 2022 Air raid sirens wail daily and the steady rumble of artillery can still be heard in the distance, but Ukrainian forces this month pushed Russian troops out of the eastern city of Kharkiv and beyond striking distance. New York Times, 18 May 2022 Mothers wince, and babies wail, as tiny bodies with sores and protruding ribs are gently checked for signs of recovery. Omar Faruk And Cara Anna, Anchorage Daily News, 8 June 2022 This time around, late April to May, the air raid sirens still wail in Kyiv, the random missile strikes nearby, but the bulk of Russia’s aggression has shifted to the east and south. Greg Palkot, Fox News, 27 May 2022 But despite the staff’s best effort, Ms. Kanbar’s 2-year-old son started to cry and then wail as the registration went on, which in turn caused his older sister to join in before the staff could bring cookies to to console them. New York Times, 12 Apr. 2022 One of the visitors reached into her bag, pulled out the phone and let the siren wail in the halls of Congress. Lisa Mascaro, ajc, 31 Mar. 2022 The idea of concealing a vegetable in a meal has, of course, been around since the first toddler learned to wail at a plate of limp broccoli. Ella Quittner, Los Angeles Times, 4 Mar. 2022 In the background, several booms could be heard and an air raid siren began to wail. Washington Post, 5 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The wail on an airhorn sent Sooners players scattering across the practice fields. Jenni Carlson, USA TODAY, 8 Aug. 2022 Sport and Corsa settings allow into the arrangement some guttural low-frequency harmonics that contrast with the V-10's top-end wail. Mike Duff, Car and Driver, 8 July 2022 Her theatrical wail cut through the static on radios across Britain. Stephen Humphries, The Christian Science Monitor, 15 June 2022 Great because: Chris Cornell’s shirtless wail and the band’s math-metal thud. Matt Wake | Mwake@al.com, al, 4 July 2022 The small hairs on the back of the neck stand up as the distinctive wail of the bagpipes begins. Freep.com, 10 June 2022 But in Kramatorsk, where the mayor says only a quarter of a prewar population of 220,000 remains, the unceasing wail of the siren has largely become background noise. Matthew Luxmoore, WSJ, 8 June 2022 Morrison’s vocals stretch and bend words; her voice is delicate yet strong, and moves with ease between a vulnerable croon and the wail of hurt. Marjua Estevez, refinery29.com, 27 Apr. 2022 Solomon’s Edgar is like a wandering wail-track) was maddening. Los Angeles Times, 16 May 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of wail


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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for wail


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

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Last Updated

18 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Wail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wail. Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for wail


\ 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



Kids Definition of wail (Entry 2 of 2)

: a long cry of grief or pain

More from Merriam-Webster on wail

Nglish: Translation of wail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wail for Arabic Speakers


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