Definition of flail in English:

flail

noun

  • 1A threshing tool consisting of a wooden staff with a short heavy stick swinging from it.

    • ‘They sowed seed by hand, harvested using a curved sickle, threshed grain with a hand flail, and winnowed it by throwing it into the air and letting the wind carry away the chaff.’
    • ‘A farmyard suggested in her mind a scene of cheerful bustle, with churns and flails and smiling dairymaids, and teams of horses drinking knee-deep in duck-crowded ponds.’
    • ‘He arranged two lines of men with flails, clubs, pitchforks, sickles, and reaping hooks.’
    • ‘I observed here and there many in the habit of servants, with a blown bladder fastened like a flail to the end of a short stick, which they carried in their hands.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘While flails can cut strong stems, a circular saw is recommended for stems over two centimetres.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A local peasant farmer is threshing corn nearby and, hearing the commotion, comes to the rescue, using his flail as a weapon.’
    • ‘On small farms this was done with a flail or wooden mallet and block.’
    • ‘The laborers tell him that Ching was teaching a newly hired farmer the right way of holding the flail, but it was too much on the old man.’
    • ‘Vehicular clearing methods have entailed the use of flails, plows, and lightweight rollers.’
    1. 1.1 A device similar to a flail, used as a weapon or for flogging.
      • ‘Turning around, he drew the first of the three weapons he possessed - a flail.’
      • ‘Without delaying for another second, he shook his saber free of the flail and swung across to the halberd, causing the man to retreat for a moment.’
      • ‘They were various weapons, including small swords, bows and arrows, hand axes, flails, nunchakus, and even a three sectional staff.’
      • ‘Pascall says one man tried to handcuff him while others attacked him with an axe, a spear and a flail.’
      • ‘Adams' opponent whipped its flail around; the weapon practically ripped the physicist's legs off at the knees.’
      • ‘At the same time, the man in the middle swung his flail sideway to his left side.’
      • ‘On the anniversaries of the martyrs' deaths, young men gather and work themselves into a frenzy, rhythmically thumping their chests and lashing their backs with metal flails.’
      • ‘Set stepped forward to meet him, his staff and flail replaced by a long, ornate spear.’
      • ‘Taking a flail, the priestess scourged the body of the horse.’
      • ‘Then, I spotted a super spiky little green thing that looked like a cross between a hand grenade and a medieval flail.’
      • ‘This man was far better with his weapon, a flail that was whipping dangerously close to Romon's face.’
      • ‘His weapon of choice is a deadly flail and he doesn't balk at finishing off wounded soldiers - or at sneaking up on them and strangling them.’
      • ‘He landed hard on his side stabbing at the guard, the sword entered the man's side and he dropped his flail, falling to the ground in pain.’
      • ‘Will's favorite weapon is a flail, and as soon as an enemy is stunned, he can't help knocking him down again.’
      • ‘Each rider carried one of many weapons - a wicked scimitar, a powerful lance, or a flail.’
      • ‘Observing the sea of swords, spears, clubs, flails and axes, with interest, he nodded.’
      • ‘Then, if you manage to take his weapon, it usually means sacrificing your one flail as well.’
      • ‘This chamber's walls were decorated with racks and racks of swords, maces, flails and other dangerous weapons.’
    2. 1.2 A machine having a similar action to a flail, used for threshing or slashing:
      [as modifier] ‘a flail hedge trimmer’
      • ‘The pruning machines were simply reciprocating cutters or flails mounted on a tractor.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Manure can be spread as a solid or semi-solid in a box or flail spreader.’
      • ‘The stones have had to survive vehicles mounting the verges and the modern peril of the flail cutters used to mow the grass roadsides.’
      • ‘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.’

verb

  • 1Wave or swing wildly:

    [no object] ‘his arms flailed as he sought to maintain his balance’
    • ‘As we came closer we could make out two men in a life raft with dye marker showing and flailing their arms wildly in the air pleading to be seen.’
    • ‘He released another arrow into the centermost human, one that was flailing his arms wildly as he shouted.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He met the eyes of his first target, flailing his arms wildly.’
    • ‘He began to flail his arms wildly and they hit me a couple times before I sat up and sat on his stomach and quickly pinned his arms down so that he wouldn't hurt himself or me anymore.’
    • ‘Susanne was kneeling up in her chair, flailing her arms wildly at me, her glowing face evidence that the celebrating had started long before my arrival.’
    • ‘Josh's arms flailed wildly, catching Katie in the face at times.’
    • ‘I grabbed Carmen, but she hit me in the mouth while flailing her arms wildly.’
    • ‘In his hurry he almost tripped on the stairs to the porch, but managed to keep his balance by wildly flailing out his arms.’
    • ‘She lashed out at him now, her arms and legs flailing wildly, her kicks and punches missing their target by a considerable margin.’
    • ‘Matthias, caught up in the moment, flailed his arms wildly and babbled incoherently.’
    • ‘He yelled, his ribs burning with pain, and flailed his arms wildly.’
    • ‘Thrashing wildly, she flailed her arms and legs in a desperate attempt to move upwards, to the surface, to salvation.’
    • ‘Then his arms would start flailing wildly like a birds in erratic flight.’
    • ‘She looked up at the wolf peering down at her, and flailed her arms wildly, the tears streaming down her face and the wails screaming from her open mouth.’
    • ‘He staggered, arms flailing wildly, and fell backward into the young pine tree.’
    • ‘That was as good as showing a red flag to a bull, and the woman put her head down and thundered forward like a battering ram, flailing her hooked weapon around.’
    • ‘He flailed his arms wildly like he had just been shot or something.’
    • ‘I danced my hardest and flailed my arms as wildly as I could, but it was all to no avail.’
    wave, swing, thrash about, flap about, beat about, windmill, move erratically
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    1. 1.1[no object] Flounder; struggle uselessly:
      ‘I was flailing about in the water’
      • ‘The sound persisted, like something small urgently flailing about inside a confined space.’
      • ‘The priest awoke with a start, flailing about in the bed until he recollected where he was and heaved himself across the mattress, in search of breakfast, no doubt.’
      • ‘He burst to the surface, flailing about and coughing.’
      • ‘He dove under and for about two seconds there was only darkness but his eyes adjusted to the dark water and then he saw Will flailing about a few feet below him.’
      • ‘His sinewy arms flailed around uselessly, his legs kicked furiously, but the ocean's grip on him only got stronger as it pulled him further down.’
      • ‘Many a time while rushing around at work, I've stumbled after stepping on the material and ended up flailing about on the steps.’
      • ‘I flailed around trying desperately to grab hold of something.’
      • ‘So now, the man who'd been arguing with them was covered with the birds, and was flailing about madly, sending feathers flying everywhere.’
      • ‘I instantly panicked, clumsily splashing and flailing about as I instinctively fought to keep myself afloat.’
      • ‘It isn't expensive - since my adventures often end with me crashing, falling or flailing about in water - but it's cute.’
      • ‘Both ends of the worm twisted and flailed around on the ground, with one end still screeching its head off.’
      • ‘The Russians called out in dismay and collapsed each in turn, flailing about as if held by a hurricane.’
      • ‘The thieves sighed but waved goodbye nonetheless as I was taken, kicking and screaming and flailing about, back to the palace.’
      flounder, struggle, thrash, thresh, squirm, wriggle, writhe, twist, splash, stumble, blunder, fumble, wiggle, twitch
      View synonyms
  • 2[with object] Beat or flog (someone):

    ‘he escorted them, flailing their shoulders with his cane’
    • ‘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, batter, drub, flog, whip, lash, scourge, flay, flagellate, strap, switch, tan, cane, tan someone's hide, whip someone's hide, give someone a hiding, beat the living daylights out of, clout, welt, belabour
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    1. 2.1British Cut (vegetation) with a flail:
      ‘the modern practice of flailing hedges every year with mechanical cutters’
      • ‘The viewless view bench was the only disappointment; a line of brutally flailed high hedge was a bit sad.’

Origin

Old English, of West Germanic origin, based on Latin flagellum whip (see flagellum); probably influenced in Middle English by Old French flaiel or Dutch vlegel.

Pronunciation:

flail

/fleɪl/