fly

1 of 5

verb (1)

flew ˈflü How to pronounce fly (audio) ; flown ˈflōn How to pronounce fly (audio) ; flying

intransitive verb

1
a
: to move in or pass through the air with wings
bees flying around the hive
b
: to move through the air or before the wind or through outer space
bullets flying in all directions
c
: to float, wave, or soar in the air
flags flying at half-mast
2
a
: to take flight : flee
was forced to fly for his life when his enemies came into power
b
: to fade and disappear : vanish
mists flying before the morning sun
3
a
: to move, pass, or spread quickly
rumors were flying
b
: to be moved with sudden extreme emotion
flew into a rage
c
: to seem to pass quickly
the time simply flew
4
: to become expended or dissipated rapidly
After he became established in the town, his inheritance flew.
5
: to operate or travel in an airplane or spacecraft
They flew to Florida for their vacation.
6
: to work successfully : win popular acceptance
knew … a pure human-rights approach would not flyCharles Brydon

transitive verb

1
a
: to cause to fly, float, or hang in the air
flying a kite
b
: to operate (something, such as a balloon, aircraft, rocket, or spacecraft) in flight
c
: to journey over or through by flying
flew the Atlantic
2
a
: to flee or escape from
The bird had flown its cage.
b
: avoid, shun
fly such a talkative woman
3
: to transport by aircraft or spacecraft
Supplies were flown to the disaster area.

fly

2 of 5

noun (1)

plural flies
1
: the action or process of flying : flight
2
a
: a device consisting of two or more radial vanes capable of rotating on a spindle to act as a fan or to govern the speed of clockwork or very light machinery
b
3
flies plural : the space over a theater stage where scenery and equipment can be hung
4
: something attached by one edge: such as
a
: a garment closing concealed by a fold of cloth extending over the fastener
b(1)
: the length of an extended flag from its staff or support
(2)
: the outer or loose end of a flag
5
: a baseball hit high into the air
6
7
: a sheet of material (such as canvas) that is attachable to a tent for use as a double top or as a rooflike extension
8
: a football pass pattern in which the receiver runs straight downfield

fly

3 of 5

verb (2)

flied; flying

intransitive verb

: to hit a fly in baseball

fly

4 of 5

noun (2)

plural flies
1
: a winged insect
usually used in combination
mayflies
butterfly
2
a
: any of a large order (Diptera) of winged or rarely wingless insects (such as the housefly, mosquito, or gnat) that have the anterior wings functional, the posterior wings reduced to halteres, and segmented often headless, eyeless, and legless larvae compare maggot
b
: a large stout-bodied fly
3
: a fishhook dressed (as with feathers or tinsel) to suggest an insect

fly

5 of 5

adjective

flyer; flyest
1
chiefly African American English : impressively good, attractive, or stylish
The singer was spotted out and about … looking fly as ever in an all-black hooded outfit.Natalie Michie
… the Destiny's Child alum knew she was looking flyer than ever, stopping to pose for a few extra flirty photo opportunities as she arrived.McKenna Aiello
Mary J. [Blige] had a tough job following up on one of the flyest debut albums in the hip-hop nation. Instead of trying to outdo herself, she took her music to the next level …Gerald Dee
2
chiefly British : keen, artful
But Shakespeare never really fell foul of the secret police. He was too fly for that.Boris Johnson
Phrases
fly at
: to assail suddenly and violently
He flew at me in a rage.
fly blind
: to fly an airplane solely by instruments
fly high
: to be elated
She was flying high after winning the contest.
fly in the face of or fly in the teeth of
: to stand or act forthrightly or brazenly in defiance or contradiction of
His explanation flies in the face of the evidence.
on the fly
1
: in motion : busy
2
: while still in the air : without the ball bouncing
the home run carried 450 feet on the fly
3
: in a hurry and often without preparation : hastily, spontaneously
making decisions on the fly
4
: simultaneously with another task
software that handles formatting on the fly
fly in the ointment
: a detracting factor or element

Examples of fly in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
In the middle of the heart, the design includes a sculpture in the middle with 17 birds flying above it. Jimena Tavel, Miami Herald, 14 Feb. 2024 Travelers can also fly cross-country for less with flights from Miami to Las Vegas starting at just $149 one-way, and flights from New York City to Palm Springs also starting at just $149 one-way. Alison Fox, Travel + Leisure, 14 Feb. 2024 Egyptian military helicopters were also seen flying on the Egyptian side this week, according to an eyewitness in Egypt and social media videos shot from the Gaza side of the border. Nadeen Ebrahim, CNN, 13 Feb. 2024 What’s ironic is my son just left last night to fly to North Carolina. Scott Fowler, Charlotte Observer, 13 Feb. 2024 Scenes depicting Pinochet flying were shot against bluescreen using a color camera and then converted to black-and-white. Daron James, Los Angeles Times, 13 Feb. 2024 The idea has appeared to gain traction in recent days, but the maneuver would be a heavy lift and would fly in the face of GOP leadership, with no guarantee of success. Kaia Hubbard, CBS News, 13 Feb. 2024 Although many airlines around the world allow travelers to bring their pets onboard, Japan’s airlines require pets to fly in the hold, largely due to passenger allergy concerns. Marisa Garcia, Forbes, 12 Feb. 2024 Unfortunately, due to the Super Bowl, Kelce will not be able to fly out to Los Angeles on Feb. 4 to join Swift on the red carpet at the Grammys, where she’s nominated for six awards. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, 1 Feb. 2024
Noun
Mercedes-Benz’s nifty two-speed transfer case has 2-Hi and 4-Hi, as well as the rare capability to shift between 4-Hi and 4-Lo on the fly. Michael Van Runkle, Robb Report, 14 Feb. 2024 Each class of recruits is expected to memorize the location and use of emergency equipment on every aircraft type the airline flies. Bobby Laurie, Condé Nast Traveler, 7 Feb. 2024 The reason that the spider can survive this high up remains somewhat of a mystery, although it is known to eat flies and springtails for nourishment. Jack Knudson, Discover Magazine, 6 Feb. 2024 Nearby was a desk stacked with faux-tortoise-shell boxes filled with the flies Grigely ties each winter. Max Norman, The New Yorker, 3 Feb. 2024 This is no longer an organization that lives on the cheap and operates on the fly. Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times, 2 Feb. 2024 The way the Cook would rub lime over his forehead to keep the flies away. Hazlitt, 24 Jan. 2024 Under the policy, guests have three complimentary meals a day and can access the resort’s canoes, paddleboards, kayaks, fly fishing rods, mountain bikes, and yoga mats. Lydia Mansel, Travel + Leisure, 27 Jan. 2024 The state tries to prevent the flies from entering on fruit brought from places such as Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and Hawaii. Terry Castleman, Los Angeles Times, 26 Jan. 2024
Adjective
From Kandi’s two-piece silver ensemble to Porsha Williams’s crystal top, the women were some of the flyest concertgoers at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium this weekend. Kerane Marcellus, Essence, 14 Aug. 2023 On stage and in magazine spreads, rappers have waged a Cold War about who could dress the flyest, wear the most outré thing, push the envelope the furthest. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, 11 Aug. 2023 For four Wednesdays this summer, fans in the flyest pairs of sneakers and trendiest fashions lined up at a high rise in the city’s West Loop neighborhood. Shakeia Taylor, Chicago Tribune, 10 Aug. 2023 Loewe Paula’s Ibiza shorts in denim, $550 (Loewe) Be the flyest foo at the function with these denim Loewe shorts. The Editors, Los Angeles Times, 14 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fly.' 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 (1) and Noun (1)

Middle English flien, from Old English flēogan; akin to Old High German fliogan to fly and probably to Old English flōwan to flow

Noun (2)

Middle English flie, from Old English flēoge; akin to Old High German flioga fly, Old English flēogan to fly

Adjective

probably from fly entry 1

First Known Use

Verb (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

1893, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1664, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of fly was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near fly

Cite this Entry

“Fly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fly. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

fly

1 of 4 verb
flew ˈflü How to pronounce fly (audio) ; flown ˈflōn How to pronounce fly (audio) ; flying
1
a
: to move in or pass through the air with wings
b
: to move through the air or with the wind
also : to move through outer space
c
: to float or cause to float, wave, or soar in the air
flags flying
fly a kite
2
: to take flight : flee
3
: to move or pass swiftly
time flies
4
a
: to operate or travel in an aircraft or spacecraft
b
: to journey over or through by flying
fly the Atlantic
c
: to transport by aircraft or spacecraft

fly

2 of 4 noun
plural flies
1
a
: a garment closing concealed by a fold of cloth
b
: the outer fabric of a tent with a double top
c
: the length of an extended flag
also : the loose end of a flag
2
: a baseball hit high into the air

fly

3 of 4 verb
flied; flying
: to hit a fly in baseball

fly

4 of 4 noun
plural flies
1
: a winged insect
2
: two-winged fly
especially : one (as a housefly) that is large and has a stout body in comparison with others (as a mosquito)
3
: a fishhook covered to look like an insect
Etymology

Verb

Old English flēogan "to move through the air, fly"

Noun

Old English flēoge "flying insect"

Medical Definition

fly

noun
plural flies
1
: a winged insect
usually used in combination
emerging mayflies
a large butterfly
2
a
: any dipteran fly

called also true fly, two-winged fly

b
: a large and stout-bodied dipteran fly (as a horsefly)

Geographical Definition

Fly

geographical name

river 650 miles (1046 kilometers) long in southern New Guinea flowing southeast into the Gulf of Papua

More from Merriam-Webster on fly

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