Definition of wail in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /weɪl/


1A prolonged high-pitched cry of pain, grief, or anger: Christopher let out a wail
More example sentences
  • Naaz Hosseini's voice slips from a serene hum to a full-throated wail to a sweet high-pitched lilt, flavored by her roots in Armenia and Persia.
  • A peacock's sharp wail pierced the music.
  • This is a column about New Labour's complete failure to publicise its many progressive achievements, while screeching out its reactionary policies in a ceaseless wail.
howl, bawl, yowl, keening;
cry, cry of grief, cry of pain, lament, lamentation, sob, moan, groan;
shriek, scream, yelp, bellow, roar, caterwaul;
whine, complaint, whimper
rare ululation
1.1A prolonged high-pitched sound: the wail of an air-raid siren
More example sentences
  • The end of the working day in the tea garden is marked by the wail of an air-raid siren.
  • She pressed her remote control gadget and the car burst into siren wails with lights flashing.
  • The pow-pow-pow of gunshots was a familiar sound, as was the wail of police sirens.


[no object]
1Utter a wail: Tina ran off wailing [with direct speech]: ‘But why?’ she wailed
More example sentences
  • Then more towers of smoke were climbing toward the sky; screams wailed across the fields.
  • She wailed something in a language I couldn't recognise and struck a pose.
  • I was standing in the cold, bare hallway of a hospital, listening to my child wail and scream from behind a closed door.
1.1Make a prolonged high-pitched sound: the wind wailed and buffeted the timber structure (as adjective wailing) wailing sirens
More example sentences
  • A horrible siren sound wailed across the boat and suddenly, men and weapons erupted on deck.
  • He really made that guitar wail, though.
  • If this had been a movie, there would have been a sax wailing in the background.
1.2 [with object] literary Manifest or feel deep sorrow for; lament: she wailed her wretched life
More example sentences
  • He wrenches his hands in agony, and again again looks up to heaven, wailing his fate.



Pronunciation: /ˈweɪlə/
Example sentences
  • With a nod to the Faces, the Stones, James Brown and other legendary wailers, Foreman is a wiggly protagonist of modern day hot.
  • Hands down, she is one of the most riveting wailers around.
  • There will be many more wailers if plans go through to close Garda stations at night to put more members of the force on the streets.


Pronunciation: /ˈweɪlfʊl/ Pronunciation: /ˈweɪlf(ə)l/
adjective ( literary)
Example sentences
  • When Sidney wrote his sonnets she was in the prime of her beauty, and he may well have been sincere in deploring the loss of such a prize, and praying in wailful sonnets that he might continue to have a place in her affections.
  • It was obvious the ghost was heartbroken and she gave out a wailful cry to let the world know of her misery.
  • It was on such a night accompanied by such wailful sounds that my birthday arrived: sixty.


Example sentences
  • They did this to me once before when they stopped making the colours of eye shadow that I had worn for 5 years - and when I wailingly told the shop girl this fact she said, ‘well its time for a change then isn't it?’
  • They were loud, wailingly loud, high pitched, moving up and down in a way that many people could not explain, sometimes going soft and then piercingly high and loud again.
  • It should be pointed out here that Totti was wailingly remorseful about it all: so much so that he took refuge in the third person, never a good sign.


Middle English: from Old Norse; related to woe.

Words that rhyme with wail

ail, ale, assail, avail, bail, bale, bewail, brail, Braille, chain mail, countervail, curtail, dale, downscale, drail, dwale, entail, exhale, fail, faille, flail, frail, Gael, Gail, gale, Grail, grisaille, hail, hale, impale, jail, kale, mail, male, webmail, nonpareil, outsail, pail, pale, quail, rail, sail, sale, sangrail, scale, shale, snail, stale, swale, tail, tale, they'll, trail, upscale, vail, vale, veil, surveil, wale, whale, Yale

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: wail

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Related Words