Definition of flap in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /flap/

verb (flaps, flapping, flapped)

1 [with object] (Of a bird) move (its wings) up and down when flying or preparing to fly: a pheasant flapped its wings [no object]: gulls flapped around uttering their strange cries
More example sentences
  • Scientists have discovered that as each bird flaps its wings it creates uplift for the bird immediately following.
  • These tiny birds can flap their wings up to 70 times per second.
  • I've seen our power lines go down when a bird flaps its wings near them, so I'm thinking we may be in the dark tonight.
beat, flutter, move up and down, agitate, wave, wag, waggle, shake, swing, twitch;
thresh, thrash, flail;
vibrate, quiver, tremble, oscillate
1.1 [no object] (Of something loosely fastened) flutter or wave around: lines of washing flapped in the wind
More example sentences
  • The sheets have been flapping furiously on the washing lines as if heralding the new front approaching from the west.
  • As the plants were locked away in a closed section next to the cafe, I strained my neck to see the price tags flapping furiously in the wind.
  • A thin breeze caught some strands of her short hair and sent some waves flapping in the wind.
flutter, swing, sway, ripple, undulate, stir, shake, quiver, shiver, tremble, fly, blow
1.2Move (something) up and down or to and fro: he flapped the envelope in front of my face
More example sentences
  • The process has been compared to moving a rug by flapping one end of it to create a wave, causing the rug to inch along bit by bit.
  • ‘You're not going to school without them,’ said Hysterical Mum Brenda, holding the boots out and flapping them in the air.
  • He flapped a clip board at me.
1.3 [with object and adverbial of direction] Strike at (something) loosely, especially to drive it away: she flapped my hands away as she sat up
2 [no object] British informal Be agitated or panicky: it’s all right, Mother, don’t flap
More example sentences
  • The comment is restrained, yet behind the scenes you know technicians are flapping and executives are panicking.
  • The maid flapped and fussed and settled her mistress in the chair, arranging cushions and shawls.
  • But she found that other people tended to flap and fuss over her problems more than she herself did, and if you wanted something done about the subject, it was best to do it yourself.
panic, go into a panic, become flustered, be agitated, fuss
informal press the panic button, be in a state, be in a tizzy, be in a dither, be in a twitter


1A thin, flat piece of cloth, paper, metal, etc. that is hinged or attached on one side only and covers an opening or hangs down from something: the flap of the envelope he pushed through the tent flap
More example sentences
  • It was a very large room, looking like a gym only a bit smaller, and there were several holes in the side of the wall that were covered up by metal flaps which looked like they could be opened.
  • The neck is covered by flaps attached to the vest.
  • He nodded to Hazel and she left, watching Katrina until the flaps of the tent covered her face.
fold, overhang, overlap, covering;
lappet, lap, tab
1.1A hinged or sliding section of an aircraft wing used to control lift: flaps are normally moved by the hydraulics
More example sentences
  • Another consideration is to minimize the drag devices: the landing gear, the flaps and the windmilling propeller.
  • The aircraft also have composite ailerons, spoilers, flaps, vertical tail skin and horizontal tail skin, but they have aluminum wings.
  • Agglomerations of wings and cowling, flaps, rudders and fuselage rise dramatically from narrow steel legs.
2An act of flapping something, typically a wing or arm, up and down or from side to side: the surviving bird made a few final despairing flaps
More example sentences
  • Residents have enjoyed watching the young birds progress from falling to the ground after a couple flaps of their wings to confident flyers.
  • The Butterfly Effect derives its name from the chaos theory which suggests that the simple flap of a butterfly's wings has the potential to set off a tornado thousands of miles away.
  • He could feel the wind blowing his bangs backwards and could hear the soft flap of his headband.
flutter, fluttering, beat, beating, waving, shaking, flailing
3 [in singular] informal A state of agitation; a panic: your Gran was in a flap, worrying she’d put her foot in it
More example sentences
  • Size isn't important, or so the saying goes… but abseilers might think differently after a banner left them, and Rochdale Council, in a flap.
  • An injured cygnet had a rescue team in a flap as it took five days to catch in Chippenham.
  • I remember a Christmas, not too long ago, when I was in a flap because our new daughter-in-law was coming for Christmas Dinner and I wanted it to be perfect.
panic, fluster, state of panic/agitation
informal state, dither, twitter, blue funk, stew, tizz, tizzy, tiz-woz
North American informal twit
fuss, agitation, commotion, stir, hubbub, excitement, tumult, ado, storm, uproar, flurry;
controversy, to-do, palaver, brouhaha, furore
informal ballyhoo, hoopla, hoo-ha, song and dance
British informal carry-on, kerfuffle
4A large broad mushroom.
5 Phonetics A type of consonant produced by allowing the tip of the tongue to strike the palate very briefly.


someone's ears are flapping

British informal Someone is trying to a listen to a conversation between other people.



adjective (flappier, flappiest)
Example sentences
  • But now and again, I'd wake up to see 2 little dark shapes with little flappy wings gouging at my legs.
  • In particular, the sleeves were just the right width - not too narrow, not too flappy.
  • The only minus is that the sleeves are kind of flappy.


Middle English: probably imitative.

  • flab from [1950s]:

    Flab was formed in the 1950s from the late 17th-century flabby, itself a form of flappy (late 16th century) from Middle English flap, which probably, along with its further variant flop (early 17th century), imitates the sound of something flapping. The slang use be in a flap about something dates from the early 20th century. Flabbergast, first mentioned in 1772 as a new piece of fashionable slang and probably an arbitrary invention, may have been modelled on flabby. Flaccid (early 17th century) comes from flaccus, the Latin for ‘flabby’.

Words that rhyme with flap

bap, cap, chap, clap, dap, entrap, enwrap, frap, gap, giftwrap, hap, knap, lap, Lapp, map, nap, nappe, pap, rap, sap, schappe, scrap, slap, snap, strap, tap, trap, wrap, yap, zap

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: flap

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.