- The definition of a flail is a farm tool that is a long-handled stick that is swung to thresh grain.
An example of a flail is a tool used to toss grain up in the air.
- To flail is defined as to wave or swing about wildly or to flounder.
When you wave your arms around wildly, this is an example of flail.
Origin of flailMiddle English fleil from Old French flaiel and Old English an unverified form flegel, both from Classical Latin flagellum, a whip, scourge: see flagellate
- to thresh with a flail
- to strike or beat as with a flail
- to move (one's arms) about like flails: often used fig. of futile or awkward struggling of any kind: flailing about in vain attempts to establish a career
verbflailed, flail·ing, flails
- To beat or strike with or as if with a flail: flailed our horses with the reins.
- To wave or swing vigorously; thrash: flailed my arms to get their attention.
- To thresh using a flail.
- To move vigorously or erratically; thrash about: arms flailing helplessly in the water.
- To strike or lash out violently: boxers flailing at each other in the ring.
- To make energetic but aimless or or ineffectual efforts: “As the end of law school approached, Hill flailed briefly in numerous professional directions” ( Molly Worthen )
- To thresh grain.
Origin of flailMiddle English from Old English flegil and from Old French flaiel both from Late Latin flagellum threshing tool from Latin flagrum whip
(third-person singular simple present flails, present participle flailing, simple past and past participle flailed)
From Middle English flaile, flayle, from earlier Middle English fleil, fleyl, fleȝȝl, flegl, from Old English fligel, *flegel (“flail”), from Proto-Germanic *flagilaz (“flail, whip”), of uncertain origin. Cognate with Scots flail (“a thresher's flail”), West Frisian fleil, flaaiel (“flail”), Dutch vlegel (“flail”), Low German vlegel (“flail”), German Flegel (“flail”). Possibly a native Germanic form from Proto-Germanic *flag-, *flah- (“to whip, beat”), from Proto-Indo-European *plak-, *plāk- ("to beat, hit, strike; weep"; compare Lithuanian plàkti (“to whip, lash, flog”), Ancient Greek πληγνύναι (plēgnýnai, “strike, hit, encounter”), Latin plangō (“lament", i.e. "beat one's breast”)) + Proto-Germanic *-ilaz (instrumental suffix); or a borrowing of Latin flagellum, diminutive of flagrum (“scourge, whip”), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰlag-, *bʰlaǵ- ("to beat"; compare Old Norse blekkja (“to beat, mistreat”)). Compare also Old French flael (“flail”), Italian flagello (“scourge, whip, plague”).