Definition of flail in English:

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Pronunciation: /flāl/


1A threshing tool consisting of a wooden staff with a short heavy stick swinging from it.
Example sentences
  • In some Middle Eastern locations, the same animals dragged a sledge over the ears, or workers manually threshed the plants with sticks or flails, to accomplish the same purpose.
  • On small farms this was done with a flail or wooden mallet and block.
  • In the west, it was mostly oaten straw that was used and it was important that the material had not been damaged and so, there was great care taken with the straw when it was threshed by the flail.
1.1A device similar to a flail, used as a weapon or for flogging.
Example sentences
  • This chamber's walls were decorated with racks and racks of swords, maces, flails and other dangerous weapons.
  • Will's favorite weapon is a flail, and as soon as an enemy is stunned, he can't help knocking him down again.
  • Adams' opponent whipped its flail around; the weapon practically ripped the physicist's legs off at the knees.
1.2A machine having an action similar to a flail, used for threshing or slashing: [as modifier]: a flail hedge trimmer
More example sentences
  • Although flails - remote-controlled machines which beat the ground to set off explosives - can be used, they may miss those stuck under tree roots or hidden in river banks, so the land is still unusable.
  • The pruning machines were simply reciprocating cutters or flails mounted on a tractor.
  • It works well, though, and since we bought a rotary slasher to replace the original flail mower it does the job of topping the paddocks and light mulching very well.


1Wave or swing or cause to wave or swing wildly: [no object]: his arms were flailing helplessly [with object]: he flailed his arms and drove her away
More example sentences
  • Thrashing wildly, she flailed her arms and legs in a desperate attempt to move upwards, to the surface, to salvation.
  • Most people in the room flailed their arms wildly around in the air and one selected girl was taken away.
  • He came at me, screaming and flailing his arms wildly about.
wave, swing, thrash about, flap about
1.1 [no object] Flounder; struggle uselessly: I was flailing about in the water he flailed around on the snow
More example sentences
  • I instantly panicked, clumsily splashing and flailing about as I instinctively fought to keep myself afloat.
  • Both ends of the worm twisted and flailed around on the ground, with one end still screeching its head off.
  • Many a time while rushing around at work, I've stumbled after stepping on the material and ended up flailing about on the steps.
flounder, struggle, thrash, writhe, splash
2 [with object] Beat; flog: he escorted them, flailing their shoulders with his cane
More example sentences
  • Rain lashed from the angry sky, icy scourges flailing Alex's head and shoulders as soon as she stepped out of the Gate she had used to escape the tunnels.
  • As they hurried to do as he ordered, he flailed his strap against each of their backs in turn.
  • She flailed her fists at him and he struck her back hard.
thrash, beat, strike, flog, whip, lash, scourge, cane
informal wallop, whack


Middle English, from Old English fligel, based on Latin flagellum 'whip' (see flagellum); probably influenced in Middle English by Old French flaiel or Dutch vlegel.

Words that rhyme with flail

ail, ale, assail, avail, bail, bale, bewail, brail, Braille, chain mail, countervail, curtail, dale, downscale, drail, dwale, entail, exhale, fail, faille, 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, wail, wale, whale, Yale

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: flail

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