Main definitions of fly in English

: fly1fly2fly3



  • 1(of a bird or other winged creature) move through the air under control.

    ‘close the door or the moths will fly in’
    ‘the bird can fly enormous distances’
    • ‘In rainy periods, when few insects are flying, the birds switch to ground feeding.’
    • ‘The raptor folds its wings, brings its talons forward, and careens toward the outstretched wings of an unsuspecting bird flying below.’
    • ‘It interests me for a few seconds until I realise that it is not music but the sound of a billion insects flying down from the mountain.’
    • ‘A moth flies by, wings beating slowly as though it were a bird; then a woman, barefoot in a long gown, appears to swim upward in defiance of gravity.’
    • ‘The sun was shining too, and birds and butterflies were flying about.’
    • ‘If the butterfly can fly free with its wings of iridescent color, gardeners should be allowed to do the same.’
    • ‘He believes a bird flying over the garden could have dropped a sunflower seed which has now transformed into the large plant.’
    • ‘Early this year, flowers bloomed ahead of time in spring and migrant birds flew back to the north earlier than usual.’
    • ‘The birds flew from their nests in the trees and insects stopped their chirping.’
    • ‘North of Fairwater, a few geese fly in the distance.’
    • ‘His eyes wandered slightly towards the windows, seeing several birds fly off into the distance.’
    • ‘She walked past neat gardens and tidy houses, watching small birds bath in bird baths, insects fly around flowers and people inside their air conditioned houses.’
    • ‘Lynx got up and went to the window, and barely saw a black bird flying off into the distance.’
    • ‘What was also surprising was the number of insects still flying and giving the birds a good meal.’
    • ‘While a person may hop on one foot, it is difficult to envision a bird flying with only one wing.’
    • ‘I was woken up this morning at half past five by quite the most enormous bumble bee flying around the bedroom.’
    • ‘Dozens of the dainty white gulls danced over the water, and I saw a Bald Eagle flying in the distance.’
    • ‘He said the company does have occasional problems with birds flying into power cables but this area was not considered at high risk and no other similar incidents have been reported over the past year.’
    • ‘A gaggle of quibblers complain that chickens do fly, albeit short distances.’
    • ‘She was sure he hit one bird because there was a flurry of feathers and a bird flew away.’
    travel through the air, wing its way, wing, glide, soar, wheel
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1(of an aircraft or its occupants) travel through the air.
      ‘I fly back to New York this evening’
      • ‘Then the F - 16 fighter planes flew overhead, which is always impressive.’
      • ‘Air Force jets and police helicopters continued to fly overhead at regular intervals, yet at street level all was unusually quiet.’
      • ‘In addition, the newer aircraft can fly higher and have a greater range than the older planes.’
      • ‘Two helicopters carrying cameras will fly overhead looking down over the stadium and Cardiff city’
      • ‘If anyone stuck in their car looked up, they could see airplanes flying low as they took off from the airport.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, the fifth aircraft flew into a sand storm and crashed, killing the pilot and mechanic.’
      • ‘Several eyewitnesses reported observing the airplane flying over the city prior to the accident.’
      • ‘And apart from the noise of helicopters flying overhead, there was no indication, even from a couple of streets away, that there was any trouble.’
      • ‘Then after that we saw 7 airplanes flying around in the sky.’
      • ‘As the aircraft flew over his house, the engine started to cut out and was sputtering.’
      • ‘When an airplane is flying, it has a good deal of forward speed and airflow over all of its surfaces.’
      • ‘Unbeknown to the pilot, the altimeter had been damaged and the aircraft was flying very low.’
      • ‘The airplane flew reasonably well despite the temporarily deformed airfoil.’
      • ‘Planes burn less fuel at higher altitudes, so pilots often fly at higher altitudes on long flights.’
      • ‘Massive concrete walls and a thick concrete roof would ensure that recording sessions would be unaffected even by the noise of a helicopter flying overhead.’
      • ‘The aircraft flew to New York and back twice between July 21 and the final takeoff on July 25.’
      • ‘After nearly nine months of work, he said that it was very pleasing to see the aircraft flying once again.’
      • ‘One aircraft flying from Heathrow to Geneva had to divert into Lyon because bad weather meant it could not land.’
      • ‘The aircraft flies at altitudes high enough that there is no acoustic footprint.’
      • ‘They said they saw an aircraft flying at a high altitude just before the blast.’
      go by air, travel by air, go by plane, travel by plane, jet
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2[with object]Control the flight of (an aircraft); pilot.
      • ‘I flew the airplane correctly, managed the emergency properly and extended the glide almost to its limits.’
      • ‘In 1900, German Count von Zeppelin flew his first airship.’
      • ‘Mr Hitchins, who had more experience flying gliders than aircraft, had not flown to Wadswick before so invited Mr Moore to come with him.’
      • ‘The nearest aircraft was regularly flown by Flight Lieutenant Bill Newton.’
      • ‘The aircraft is flown by five crew members: the pilot and co-pilot, flight engineer and two loadmasters.’
      • ‘The foundation of a successful aviation career is a burning desire to fly airplanes.’
      • ‘When flying a helicopter the controls need to be manually held at all times.’
      • ‘The location of the engines, high on the fuselage, allows the pilot to fly the aircraft fairly easily with one engine inoperable.’
      • ‘The aircraft is flown by two pilots rather than four aircrew.’
      • ‘Only our most experienced pilots were allowed to fly this new airplane at the time.’
      • ‘However, it was not unusual for a pilot with an assigned aircraft to fly whatever aircraft was serviceable on any given day.’
      • ‘The aircraft is flown by two flight crew with between six and ten mission crew.’
      • ‘If a pilot didn't fly his own airplane for six months or more, he often was the only one who knew.’
      • ‘The autopilot can fly an airplane once in the air, and land it, but it cannot be used during takeoff.’
      • ‘They fly heavy tankers that deliver gas to other aircraft in midair.’
      • ‘I will be wearing standard US issue flight gear, and I will be flying a navy aircraft clearly marked as a US warplane.’
      • ‘The autopilot helps fly the airplane while the pilots run the appropriate checklists.’
      • ‘We know that you served as an Air Force Academy liaison officer when you weren't flying airliners.’
      • ‘Then again, you'll have to admit, the men who fly our modern airliners are experts - they have to be!’
      • ‘This reduced the amount of control forces and the frequency of control movements required to fly the aircraft.’
      pilot, operate, control, manoeuvre, steer, guide, direct, navigate
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    3. 1.3[with object]Transport in an aircraft.
      ‘helicopters flew the injured to a hospital’
      • ‘Two other US soldiers were injured and were flown by helicopter back to a field hospital in the capital where they were in a ‘stable’ condition last night.’
      • ‘But Naval engineers, based in the Islands, repaired the cross, which was flown back by Chinook helicopter.’
      • ‘She commissioned the state helicopter to fly her home when she learned that her baby had a medical emergency.’
      • ‘They are sending a transport aircraft to fly relief to Grand Bahama.’
      • ‘Shortly after their birth, the children were flown by helicopter to the world renowned Great Ormond Street Hospital in London for observation and treatment.’
      • ‘New Zealand has offered to fund a helicopter to fly a team of four doctors into Nias to treat the earthquake injured, and Prime Minister Helen Clark promised more aid will follow.’
      • ‘A total of 28 orphaned Great Bustard chicks were flown to the UK from Russia in the autumn, and released into the wild on Salisbury Plain.’
      • ‘Paramedics had to call out an RAF helicopter to fly a seriously ill baby 200 miles from Rochdale to an intensive care bed in London.’
      • ‘Soldiers were then flown by Black Hawk or Caribou to Line Creek junction.’
      • ‘The injured boy was flown by helicopter to hospital, where he was treated for multiple bites to the arms and legs.’
      • ‘He was flown by police helicopter to Hull Royal Infirmary, where he underwent emergency surgery to remove the post from his chest.’
      • ‘Requests to have the game postponed by 24 hours were dismissed so officials saw only one option and that was to hire a helicopter to fly him back.’
      • ‘The exiled militants were flown by British military transport to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus were they were put up at a seaside hotel under police guard.’
      • ‘Then in January, Ramsey was flown to Toronto, along with other finalists, for a final round of interviews at the Bank of Montreal's Institute for Learning.’
      • ‘After a motorcade ride to Dulles, the turkeys were flown to California to their new home at Disneyland.’
      • ‘They were flown to the capital along with other wounded personnel.’
      • ‘But he asked, apparently, for a helicopter to fly him in every day from wherever he was, and they bounced him.’
      • ‘Jim applied for the job, took a test, and was one of four finalists who were flown out for an interview with Bill.’
      • ‘After his aborted sentencing hearing, he was escorted from the courtroom by his guards and boarded the helicopter to be flown back to his cell.’
      • ‘Cliff Richard celebrates his 60th birthday in style - he's flying guests in by helicopter to his cruise liner somewhere in the Mediterranean.’
      transport by air, transport by plane, airlift, lift, jet
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    4. 1.4[with object]Accomplish (a purpose) in an aircraft.
      ‘pilots trained to fly combat missions’
      • ‘Aid agencies begged for more air transport as a handful of exhausted helicopter crews flew non-stop missions.’
      • ‘During wartime service in the Pacific, he flew fifty-eight combat missions.’
      • ‘He'd flown combat missions in Vietnam and was one of the few aircrew members with combat experience.’
      • ‘They're cheap to run and cost much less than flying real missions.’
      • ‘It noted that aircraft from Ark Royal and Eagle had flown by then nearly a thousand surveillance sorties.’
      • ‘He said his father was also training Peruvian pilots to fly combat missions.’
      • ‘Tony, who'd flown seven combat missions at the time, hadn't faced many threats.’
      • ‘After flying a few missions, Richard showed such talent that he received his own crew and was then a full pilot.’
      • ‘He was a skilled pilot who had flown combat missions with the Royal Naval Air Service in World War I.’
      • ‘I am curious why you used a call sign name to identify a Guard pilot flying homeland defense missions.’
      • ‘They went along to keep an eye out for Air Force pilots flying the strike mission.’
      • ‘In 1944, as a civilian, he flew fifty combat missions in the Pacific theater and shot down one Japanese fighter.’
      • ‘Close air support sorties were flown during the ground war, but they were employed beyond the sight of the troops they supported.’
      • ‘It was the first time since the Vietnam War that Royal Australian Air Force aircraft have flown close air support missions in support of Australian ground troops in a war zone.’
      • ‘One RAAF pilot flew two sorties on D-Day alongside his Allied counterparts.’
      • ‘On 17 June, he was flying his third mission of the day and bombing a bridge near Paris.’
      • ‘Brave French airmen who flew missions over their homeland from Britain during the Second World War have been remembered at the Yorkshire Air Museum.’
      • ‘You would be hard pressed to find a young captain or major who hadn't flown combat sorties in the area of operations.’
      • ‘Other women fly deep combat missions in the Navy and Air Force.’
      • ‘It was a combination of Air Force, Navy, and Marine pilots who flew the mission.’
    5. 1.5[with object]Release (a bird) to fly, especially a hawk for hunting or a pigeon for racing.
      • ‘He was prepared to provide T-bar perches for installation in areas where he regularly flew the birds.’
      • ‘He is a great falconer, and has promised to fly his hawks on Friday for my amusement.’
      • ‘It was not the most suitable of places to fly an eagle.’
      • ‘Captive-bred birds are easy to come by now, but the time needed to look after and fly a bird is still a rare commodity.’
      • ‘He would go up on to the roof each morning at dawn to fly his beloved birds into the clear sky.’
  • 2Move or be hurled quickly through the air.

    ‘balls kept flying over her hedge’
    ‘he was sent flying by the tackle’
    • ‘Men and bikes were sent flying into the safety fence, but both managed to walk away.’
    • ‘Punches were thrown, chairs sent flying, a woman pushed to the floor and spectators in the packed arena sent running for cover, according to reports from the scene.’
    • ‘The arrow flew straight to the mark and buried itself into the lion's chest.’
    • ‘He was sent flying across the room and slammed into the wall.’
    • ‘A little piece of a pickle came flying out of my mouth and attached itself to his shirt.’
    • ‘‘Once they got out on to the streets there was so much debris flying around that you cannot tell what happened to everyone,’ she said.’
    • ‘In fact, the impact was so great she felt herself being sent flying through the air.’
    • ‘"I don't think so, " he said, spittle flying from his mouth.’
    • ‘The farther the ride went, the more speed it picked up and the more things started flying out of the car.’
    • ‘The ball flew into the Cubs' dugout, through the door, and into the adjoining bathroom, bouncing into the toilet bowl.’
    • ‘Stomping my feet with anger I was about to turn around and go back inside the house when the ball magically came flying over the fence back to my side again.’
    • ‘A log on the campfire near us cracked and collapsed, making sparks fly up into the air.’
    • ‘It was a breezy southwesterly gale which caused overflowing dustbins to be sent flying through the masses.’
    • ‘Errant sparks fly through the air landing on lower branches and underbrush for rapid ignition.’
    • ‘Thank goodness it's a passive recreation area, which means that no soccer balls will come flying into the chanting crowds as soccer in the park is prohibited.’
    • ‘Shards of plastic and even wheels had been sent flying across the street into gardens and hedges.’
    • ‘The windows on nearby buildings exploded, people were thrown back, and cars were sent flying into nearby buildings.’
    • ‘Bullets flew in my direction as I dodged behind the stall.’
    • ‘The slower rotation speed reduces the chance of the turbine flying out of it's housing.’
    • ‘I grunted angrily as we clashed swords, sparks flying off in every direction.’
    1. 2.1Baseball [with adverbial of direction]Hit a ball high into the air.
      ‘Gwynn flied to left’
      • ‘The deciding run, in the fourth inning, came as Crabtree tripled after Longacre fell trying to make the catch and Kurowski flew to right.’
      • ‘He was in the outfield when Houston pitcher Bill Greason flew to left.’
      • ‘With Wakefield up in the pen yet again as Francona burned through his options, Curt Leskanic came in and got Williams to fly to center to end the inning.’
    2. 2.2Baseball (of a batter) be put out by hitting a fly ball that is caught.
      • ‘Spencer is not getting on top of enough pitches and, as a result, is flying out frequently.’
      • ‘With two men on and one out in the top of the sixth, he got the next two batters to fly out.’
      • ‘He pulls everything to right when he's on the money and either strikes out or flies out weakly to left when he's wrong.’
      • ‘He came to his senses and struck out Diaz and Lofton and got Vizquel to fly out to left field.’
    3. 2.3[with adverbial of direction]Go or move quickly.
      ‘she flew along the path’
      • ‘The book, new to the market, is currently flying off the shelves.’
      • ‘My fingers were flying over the keyboard, making words and sentences and thoughts.’
      • ‘‘We get lorries and all sorts flying along, and people do not drive for the conditions of the road at all,’ she said.’
      • ‘Traffic flies along the A19 and too few motorists adjust to the speed restriction imposed at Thormanby.’
      • ‘Luke took Hailey's hand in his, and the two hastily flew down the stairs and out of the lighthouse.’
      • ‘I flew recklessly quickly down the stairs, and ripped my front door open.’
      • ‘But she said that the traditional favourite costumes are still flying off the shelves.’
      • ‘The postal pipe hugs the curb, rivulets of rain on it trembling every time a package flies along it.’
      • ‘She felt her fingertips flying over the fret board.’
      • ‘He and I took one look at each other before flying down the stairs.’
      • ‘The tank then flew away at a blistering speed.’
      • ‘The horse flew smoothly along the ground, her muscles moving in perfect synchronization with each other.’
      • ‘I can go into a state of zen-like calm and concentration, while my fingers fly across the keyboard.’
      • ‘She came flying out of the bathroom, hands fumbling to attach a backing to an earring.’
      • ‘You'll be flying along, and you come around a corner and the weather's totally different from what you left.’
    4. 2.4informal Depart hastily.
      informal ‘I must fly!’
      • ‘Well, I really must fly, darling. Congratulations on your engagement and I shall see you on Saturday night!’
      • ‘And they've just put out the second call for our flight, so I must fly…’
      • ‘‘Thank you.’ Claudia stood up. ‘I have to fly! We must get together for dinner soon!’’
      • ‘We too must fly, so stride briskly over the bridge to Boat Of Garten, from where a steam railway plies its way across the moor to Aviemore, giving another magnificent aspect of the mountains.’
      race, hurry, hasten, flash, dash, dart, rush, shoot, speed, hurtle, streak, really move, spank along, whirl, whizz, go like lightning, go hell for leather, whoosh, buzz, zoom, swoop, blast, charge
      View synonyms
    5. 2.5(of time) pass swiftly.
      ‘how time flies!’
      • ‘You'll have so much fun putting a project together that time flies.’
      • ‘Our five days in Germany's capital city flew along quickly even though the first week of January is more like an extended siesta period for Germans.’
      • ‘How the long winter nights must fly by at Chez Blaine.’
      • ‘Another weekend has flown past and Easter is looming up pretty fast again this year.’
      • ‘Those long winter nights at the Gert household must absolutely fly by.’
      • ‘Those long winters on Lewis must have just flown by.’
      go quickly, fly by, fly past, pass swiftly, slip past, rush past
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    6. 2.6(of a report) be circulated among many people.
      ‘rumors were flying around Chicago’
      • ‘Family are divided, there is no consensus, and information flying around differs, so it's hard for people to decide who is right on this one.’
      • ‘‘That speculation has been flying around for a while now and I've nothing really to add to it,’ said the Rovers chief.’
      • ‘We have to be mindful of the conspiracy theories flying around the community.’
      • ‘With all the rumours that were flying around about the newspaper's feature on the nightclub, I couldn't help myself; I had to get my hands on the article and read it myself.’
      • ‘There's even a rumour flying around that it might be Manchester City, given Keane's long-standing friendship with Stuart Pearce.’
      • ‘The online poll is, of course, completely unscientific, but is it any less so than the exit polls whose numbers are flying around the web?’
      • ‘Another is that he was a defector and he just wanted to get away from the war, and all of this has been flying around in the last few days, and really no clear sense of what the true story is, is yet to emerge.’
      • ‘Rumours are currently flying around cyberspace that there might be a further three episodes of Star Wars in the pipeline.’
      • ‘It's been the hot topic of the World Cup, with conspiracy theories flying thick and fast as powerful teams have fallen to lesser soccer countries.’
      • ‘This, despite their assertions of moral rectitude, implies that it is hard to make an informed judgment on an issue such as this with so much disinformation flying around.’
      • ‘Rumors were flying around that there was all this partying going on, on the ‘Miami Vice’ set.’
      • ‘The rumours are flying around the government.’
      • ‘Rumours are flying around the place at a rate of knots, everyone is understandably worried.’
      • ‘Then yesterday in the mid afternoon text messages began flying around the town that the Alexander The Great star was perched on a bar stool in the Purty Kitchen Pub with some friends.’
      • ‘Company commanders have, of course, briefed them, but there's still a lot of other information flying around.’
      • ‘I think it was important to make clear how it happened, what happened during it, and how it ended, rather than all the speculation and the fabrications that were flying around.’
      • ‘Judging from all the telephone calls and emails flying around right now among intelligence veterans, the mood is one of disappointment and genuine concern.’
    7. 2.7(of accusations or insults) be exchanged swiftly and heatedly.
      ‘the accusations flew thick and fast’
      • ‘More understandably, accusations flew about rail chiefs putting profit before passenger safety.’
      • ‘Yet with so many accusations flying, it seems no amount of medical science is going to settle the matter.’
      • ‘Shows were cancelled and accusations flew between members of the band as to who was to blame.’
      • ‘As Congress tries to wrap up its work, insults are flying.’
      • ‘A lot of allegations are flying at the moment; it is not clear whether they are true, and it is proper to wait for Zuma's trial, when they will be tested.’
      • ‘Once again accusations are flying about the lack of consultation over health services.’
      • ‘Accusations fly, jeopardizing her long, mostly happy marriage to Ned, a struggling artist.’
      • ‘And as if that was not enough, only last week there were accusations flying that standards among school newcomers were dropping.’
      • ‘The guy laughed, and soon enough a torrent of crude jokes and insults were flying around.’
      • ‘This led to another huge argument with insults flying from left to right and back again.’
      • ‘No one is safe as the accusations fly, sides are taken and irreversible decisions are forced to be made.’
      • ‘Already accusations are flying that the bid is rigged and fixed and they already know who is going to win.’
      • ‘Obviously, as you can imagine, the charges and countercharges are flying fast and furious.’
      • ‘The political insults flying about the place certainly make it feel as though the starting pistol's been fired.’
      • ‘Accusations are already flying between the German Government, opposition parties, federal ministries and teachers.’
      • ‘Vituperative accusations flew back and forth between the two candidates.’
      • ‘Since the most recent round of devastating fires, the accusations have flown thick and fast.’
      • ‘Accusations flew around that Scott had written the book for the money, and that the leak was a deliberate attempt to gain maximum publicity.’
      • ‘If that weren't enough, the insults and accusations were flying like sand on a pre-school playground.’
      • ‘And the accusations of sexism keep flying in thick and fast.’
      • ‘Simon was turned down by the residents' committee with accusations flying about who was rudest to who.’
  • 3[with adverbial] (especially of hair) wave or flutter in the wind.

    ‘they were running, hair flying everywhere’
    • ‘Her hair was blowing freely in the wind and her cloak flew behind her, she felt so free when riding like nothing could touch her and she could do as she pleased.’
    • ‘In that touching movie, the hero Tristan often rode a horse, his long hair flying in the wind.’
    • ‘My hair was flying in the wind with no absolute direction.’
    • ‘A sight she looked, with her wind swept hair flying about her.’
    • ‘My hair flew behind me, the wind whistling through each strand.’
    • ‘Her hair flew haphazardly behind her as her horse raced against the wind.’
    • ‘His brown hair flew wildly in the wind, and a smirk played upon his lips.’
    • ‘The really nasty bikers are easy to spot; they are the ones with long hair flying briskly in the wind, riding really fast.’
    • ‘His eyes shone and his hair was flying wildly in the wind.’
    • ‘Her long golden brown and auburn hair flew behind her as the wind pushed it back.’
    • ‘She and Kristina went out into the square and ran around with their hair flying in the wind.’
    • ‘The wind caressed my face and my hair flew like a cape behind me.’
    • ‘Hair flying in the wind, she urged her horse towards the high jump and sailed smoothly over the stacked logs.’
    • ‘Her black hair flew in the wind and she enjoyed the sheer exhilaration of the ride.’
    • ‘Carried by the elements, the boat comes to life and we ride its bare back, salt spray in our faces, hair flying behind us, gasping with exhilaration.’
    • ‘Her dishevelled hair flew wildly in the wind, framing a bewildered look.’
    • ‘She sighed dramatically, her silky black hair flying in the wind as she became increasingly frustrated.’
    • ‘Shaking his head back and forth his hair flew everywhere, hand waving at the side of his head as if he smelled something bad.’
    • ‘Tears were forming in her bright blue eyes, her long blonde hair flying in the wind, while walking out to the parking lot.’
    • ‘We've all seen the image of the person on the motorcycle with her hair flying behind her in the wind.’
    flutter, flap, wave, blow, waft, float, stream
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1(with reference to a flag) display or be displayed, especially on a flagpole.
      ‘flags were flying at half-mast’
      • ‘The flag flew from the Post Office - at half mast for the death of any important person.’
      • ‘No one partied harder than the people of Bolton, with flags flying patriotically from flagpoles and bunting between the houses.’
      • ‘On the Capitol flagpole, the Lone Star flies below the American flag, emblem of the few brief years when slaveholding Texas was its own republic.’
      • ‘The flag was flying on the flagpole, meaning that Her Majesty was at home.’
      • ‘The flag flew from every public building, from every municipal flagpole, and from every structure of consequence in the land.’
      • ‘The reception was held in the Manor Court Hotel and the happy couple will reside at Rathnaskillogue where the Kilkenny and Waterford flags have been flying for some weeks.’
      display, show, exhibit
      View synonyms
  • 4archaic Flee; run away.

    ‘those that fly may fight again’
    • ‘Yet you did not fly from me, nor did I fly from you: we are innocent towards one another in our unfaithfulness.’
    • ‘These people know of my crime; perhaps they will not fly from me, and will only kill me.’
    • ‘it was to the English he must have flown for protection, and to them he would naturally have communicated his fears.’
    • ‘She obtained employment as a servant in several places but was followed up by her husband and uncle, and compelled to fly from one place to another.’
    • ‘And now Edward, in his turn, was compelled to fly from the country, and to take refuge with his brother-in-law, the Duke of Burgundy.’
    1. 4.1[with object]Flee from; escape from in haste.
      ‘you must fly the country for a while’
      • ‘Protestants, wherever they could obtain shipping, hasted to fly the country.’
      • ‘Regard for you has checked my course towards my leafy home, while duty to my country urges me to fly this place.’
      • ‘This is no time for thanks, Mr. Peters, unless it is to the Lord; you must fly the country, and that at once!’
      • ‘Beware of telling any one of our existence; or we must fly this land.’
      • ‘He was compelled to fly the realm for having murdered a woman with child.’
  • 5North American informal Be successful.

    ‘that idea didn't fly with most other council members’
    • ‘If this idea flies, I have no problem in supporting it and finding the ways to make it feasible.’
    • ‘This film usually gets great ratings, but it just didn't fly for me.’
    • ‘Here's one we prepared earlier on the current state of the art, and presumably if the UK scheme flies it will be along the lines of the US stuff.’
    • ‘It didn't fly with the public. People didn't get it.’
    • ‘‘I don't think this is going to fly at all,’ he said. ‘It’s not going to happen.’’


  • 1An opening at the crotch of a pair of pants, closed with a zipper or buttons and typically covered with a flap.

    • ‘Imagine my reaction then as I stumble out of the cupboard buttoning up the flies on my jeans and two secretaries are walking past.’
    • ‘He'd haphazardly pulled his tuxedo trousers on, zipping the fly but leaving the button tantalizingly undone.’
    • ‘Interesting alternatives are Velcro straps or, if the shorts fit perfectly, stylish button flies.’
    • ‘Perhaps I should turn up late, reeking of red wine and motel sheets, with lipstick on my collar and my flies down.’
    • ‘I also noticed that there was a string hanging out of the waiter's fly.’
    • ‘These flat-front relaxed chinos have a zipper fly, button tab, inside button, and on-seam pockets.’
    • ‘Which is always like being caught in public with your fly open and your shirttail sticking through.’
    • ‘We make boxers with fake flies, no flies, and button flies.’
    • ‘His knees buckle as he automatically checks his flies are fastened, coughs and addresses us, increasingly demented.’
    • ‘Go and try on a pair of Levi's 501s with the original button fly.’
    • ‘Boys, nay men, need to remember to wipe the toothpaste from the corners of their mouth, the crumbs from their beards and not to catch their shirts in their flies.’
    • ‘The Tory could not work out why they were so jovial and even checked his trouser flies to make sure he had not caused the merriment by ‘flying low’.’
    • ‘If there's a zipper or button fly, mark the folded edge of the overlap side and use the leg on that side.’
    • ‘I suppose the male equivalent to these little secrets was flying at half mast, flying low or egg on your face, to indicate undone or untidy trouser flies.’
    1. 1.1A flap of material covering the opening or fastening of a garment or of a tent.
      [as modifierin combination] ‘a fly-fronted shirt’
      • ‘I do not like how far I have to reach from the inside of the tent to the zip on the fly.’
      • ‘After the exterior of the tent's fly dries, remove it and drape it over a bush or tree limb with the interior exposed.’
      • ‘The tent's fly flutters in the wind a little.’
      • ‘We use our ice axes to stake down the fly, but it flaps as violently as a trapped bird.’
  • 2The space over the stage in a theater.

    • ‘A dancer will be lowered like a window washer, bucket and squeegee in hand, from the flies of the stage.’
    • ‘The National Theatre, with its push-button revolving stage, its sets which came out of the flies or up from the floor, was one of the mechanical wonders of the age.’
    • ‘Suspended from the flies or moving in slow motion, she was a spiritual warrior and her chalked, nude body was her testing ground.’
    • ‘Also all sorts of bolts of cloth unrolled this way and that or unfurling from the flies, sometimes covering the entire cast, though not for long enough.’
    • ‘The rest, even while the scenery keeps rising from the floor or descending from the flies, remains unremittingly flat.’
  • 3Baseball

    short for fly ball
    • ‘He led off the top of the ninth inning with a high fly down the left field line.’
    • ‘This season, he's producing a lot of weak pop flies and grounders.’
    • ‘In years gone by, if a fielder caught a foul fly while stepping into the dugout, it was ruled a legal catch.’
    • ‘In 1941, Williams hit six long flies that drove in a runner from third base.’
    • ‘He steals a base up by 10 runs or down by 10, and he's standing on second base by the time his routine fly to center field is caught.’
  • 4British historical A one-horse hackney carriage.

    • ‘He was on a visit to a friend, and met with his death through an accident while riding in a fly.’
    • ‘In half a minute the light of the lanterns fell upon a hired fly, drawn by a steaming and jaded horse.’
    • ‘The season at Solentsea was now past: the parade was gloomy, and the flys were few and cheap.’
    • ‘I paid my bill at the hotel, and hired a fly to take me to the town.’
    • ‘Just lie down here for a few minutes until I can procure a fly, and I will have you there in a jiffy.’


  • fly the coop

    • Make one's escape.

      • ‘As the pressure mounts, rumors circulate that Jim intends to double-cross his old friends and fly the coop.’
      • ‘The meeting was called by a bunch of auditors, so I should have known to fly the coop.’
      • ‘I helped keep track of Zoe last month, I let them know when she flew the coop, and they don't even let me know anything about her!’
      • ‘Eventually, the writers took pity on their tragic hero and Timothy was allowed to fly the coop with his latest girlfriend, Pippa, at the end.’
      • ‘She had wanted to take our relationship to the next level and that's always when I fly the coop.’
      • ‘Alan's the eldest and had decided to fly the coop… he had some great friends over there, he was really happy.’
      • ‘The company today rubbished rumours that its flamboyant founder was flying the coop.’
      • ‘After my ex flew the coop, I tied my wedding ring to a helium balloon and let it loose in the wild blue yonder.’
      • ‘‘They are flying the coop in search of greener pastures,’ she lamented at a press conference recently.’
      • ‘Is it just me or don't most people want to fly the coop by the time they hit 20?’
  • fly the flag

    • 1(of a ship) be registered in a particular country and sail under its flag.

      • ‘It was therefore supposed to fly the flag of its nation of registry, i.e. Liberia.’
      • ‘At the time, all the major cruise lines were incorporated abroad, and every major ship they sailed flew the flag of a country other than the United States.’
      • ‘Two ships appeared on the horizon flying the flag that I was taught to be of Spain.’
      • ‘We were told it was a freighter flying the flag of neutral Portugal.’
      • ‘On 12 January 2003, the MV Dorine, a Polish bulk carrier flying the flag of Cyprus, berthed in Bell Bay, Launceston.’
      1. 1.1Represent or demonstrate support for one's country, political party, or organization, especially when one is abroad.
        ‘he will never consider buying an import, because he likes to fly the flag’
        • ‘He is waving the flag to show his support for better relations between Canada and the United States.’
        • ‘And cheered on by nearly 38,000 delirious fans the 34-year-old Gloucester born star did a triumphant lap of honour, waving the flag of St George.’
        • ‘Since these companies are busy waving the flag at the moment, one needs to recall how they described themselves during the past decade, as they dispersed production worldwide and planted their logos in many distant lands.’
        • ‘People are afraid, and in waving the flag of pacifism - pacifism synonymous with anti-Americanism - they feel protected.’
        • ‘He missed the chance to wave the flag for all who do not identify with any party and are simply proud to be Irish.’
        • ‘The 19-year-old was born in New Zealand, but this season he is flying the flag of the land of his forebears, namely Holland.’
        • ‘Great Britain had a realistic chance of the top prize in the men's under-60 kg judo, with England's Commonwealth champion Craig Fallon flying the flag.’
        • ‘By the same token, the Democratic Party will carry the flag of anti-clericism.’
        • ‘With the dust hardly settled, she was off again, flying the flag in the Far East as she reverted to a roving ambassador for the UK.’
        • ‘Devonport frigate HMS Campbeltown has returned home to the West Country after flying the flag and making friends in Russia and the Baltic.’
  • fly high

    • Be very successful; prosper.

      ‘that young man is the sort to fly high’
      • ‘A young pigeon fancier is flying high after his new hobby saw him racing ahead of the competition.’
      • ‘The small club have been flying high in the top division.’
      • ‘Pubs, restaurants and shops at Middlebrook and the rest of the town thrives when the club is flying high.’
      • ‘Tourism was flying high this August Bank Holiday weekend, a year after the foot and mouth crisis threatened a serious dent in the area's economy.’
      • ‘The prime minister was flying high in the middle of last year.’
      • ‘Emmerdale has been flying high in the TV ratings recently, attracting an audience of almost ten million.’
      • ‘But she is a very happy woman today, seeing her daughter flying high.’
      • ‘It all means the economy, so long flying high in the clouds, is set for a crash landing, albeit after the next election.’
      • ‘Five air cadets are flying high after winning Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards.’
      • ‘As part of its platinum jubilee celebrations, it has planned a series of programmes that would keep the art of India flying high.’
      • ‘While Brandon's career is flying high, Courtney insists the action star hasn't changed at all.’
  • fly in the face of

    • Be openly at variance with (what is usual or expected)

      ‘a need to fly in the face of convention’
      • ‘This flies in the face of what the king's supporters want.’
      • ‘‘The Home Secretary has chosen to fly in the face of so much compelling evidence that the law needs to be changed,’ said Mr Davis.’
      • ‘This government continues to fly in the face of not just international opinion, but commonsense and decency.’
      • ‘It flies in the face of reason and logic to expect such a thing.’
      • ‘This approach may fly in the face of what the public wants.’
      • ‘Miss Lyall said: ‘It was flying in the face of what central government were saying.’’
      • ‘However, at least one of the contributors is an American, which seems to fly in the face of what they are attempting.’
      • ‘The idea not only seemed illogical, it also flew in the face of what the Government was trying to achieve in the first place.’
      • ‘This kind of charity flies in the face of all the economic truths that are evident and all the truths we have been told by the government.’
      • ‘Of course, that completely flies in the face of what is really happening.’
      go against, flout, defy, disobey, refuse to obey, rebel against, thumb one's nose at, disregard, ignore, set one's face against, kick against
      break, violate, contravene, breach, infringe
      cock a snook at
      set at naught
      View synonyms
  • fly into a rage (or temper)

    • Become suddenly or violently angry.

      • ‘If everything was not perfect he could fly into a rage.’
      • ‘AN 18-year-old flew into a rage when he thought his girlfriend was involved with another man.’
      • ‘She would line all her toys up on the drive and if one was moved would fly into a rage.’
      • ‘Ian flew into a rage, vowing never to speak to his younger brother or wife again.’
      • ‘She suspected her mother would fly into a rage if she asked her this question.’
      • ‘Her mother said she didn't believe her, flew into a rage, and threw her out of the house.’
      • ‘All I did was stick my tongue out and he flew into a rage.’
      • ‘I have met men who can fix a broken kettle or a toaster without flying into a temper and shouting at the kids.’
      • ‘When Teresa refused he flew into a violent rage, and seriously assaulted her.’
      • ‘A drunken police officer flew into a rage and punched two students when told he had missed his last train home after a Christmas party.’
  • fly the nest

    • 1(of a young bird) leave its nest on becoming able to fly.

      • ‘What happens is when they fly the nest the muscles in their wings aren't quite strong enough.’
      • ‘The council will now have to wait for the eggs to hatch and the chicks to fly the nest before sending the demolition men back in, unless a bid for a special licence to remove the nest is granted.’
      • ‘Now the three fledglings are taking to the skies every day as they prepare to fly the nest, although they return home to the quarry each night.’
      • ‘It is fascinating keeping an eye on them and I look forward to seeing the eggs hatch and the young birds fly the nest.’
      • ‘The eggs have now hatched into four tiny pied wagtails, and Mr Thompson and his men are waiting for them to fly the nest, so the truck can go back on the road.’
      • ‘They have protected the nest since March, and continue to do so now the fledglings are almost ready to fly the nest.’
      • ‘The nestlings, grey coloured until they get their adult feathers, fly the nest 17-21 days after hatching.’
      1. 1.1informal (of a young person) leave their parents' home to set up home elsewhere.
        • ‘Marriages frequently run into trouble under the strain of dealing with rebellious teenagers, or when the children fly the nest.’
        • ‘It wasn't long before she decided to fly the nest and make her way to Paris, where her jobs included modelling, waitressing and learning to cook at the La Varenne school.’
        • ‘Admittedly, they are a bit young yet to be flying the nest, and I wasn't intimating that I was especially anxious to be rid of them.’
        • ‘As a man of almost 70 who has his only two sons still living with him at home at the ages of 38 and 30 and - unfortunately - showing little sign of flying the nest, I would be deliriously happy to have a grandchild.’
        • ‘So that's another sibling to vacate Southport; another is likely to fly the nest in the not too distant future, even my parents are looking at moving themselves.’
        • ‘The number of young people in the UK who have yet to fly the nest is still below the European average, and significantly fewer than their counterparts in Italy.’
        • ‘When he left for university it was his mum that did all the crying, I was pleased for him for flying the nest and making his own way.’
        • ‘It's not just that he's upset about his kids flying the nest.’
        • ‘Several changes in her life, including her children flying the nest, have meant that now is the right time for a change.’
        • ‘Exasperated parents are handing over thousands of pounds to encourage their grown-up children to fly the nest and take their own first steps on the property ladder.’
  • fly off the handle

    • informal Lose one's temper suddenly and unexpectedly.

      • ‘This issue is personal for me - that's why I'm flying off the handle.’
      • ‘But touch on anything emotional and Andrew flies off the handle.’
      • ‘We can't have him flying off the handle at the slightest provocation but we also need a President who is alert mentally.’
      • ‘I became incredibly moody - well, irritable, really - and would behave in a way most unlike me, flying off the handle at the least provocation.’
      • ‘I took a deep breath and tried not to fly off the handle.’
      • ‘I'm sorry if it seems like I'm flying off the handle, but I'm just a bit disturbed and upset right now.’
      • ‘I think if you understood the back story of my frustrating relationship with this overpriced garage you might appreciate why I flew off the handle.’
      • ‘Just because you need to buy a cable in addition to your printer does not give you license to fly off the handle at the sales rep.’
      • ‘Now 15, he is every bit the troubled teen, picking fights and flying off the handle at his closest friends.’
      • ‘There are still moments when they fly off the handle, but for the most part they understand that they are safe here.’
      lose one's temper, become very angry, fly into a rage, explode, blow up, erupt, lose control, go berserk, breathe fire, begin to rant and rave, flare up, boil over
      go mad, go crazy, go wild, go bananas, have a fit, see red, blow one's top, blow a fuse, blow a gasket, do one's nut, hit the roof, go through the roof, go up the wall, go off the deep end, lose one's cool, go ape, flip, flip one's lid, lose one's rag, lose it, freak out, be fit to be tied, be foaming at the mouth, burst a blood vessel, get one's dander up, go non-linear
      go spare, go crackers, throw a wobbly, get one's knickers in a twist
      flip one's wig
      go crook
      go apeshit
      View synonyms
  • go fly a kite

    • informal [in imperative]Go away.

      • ‘And if it attempted to subpoena those documents, the White House would tell it to go fly a kite.’
      • ‘The Government has now legislated a convoluted process whereby criminals can profit and victims can go fly a kite.’
      • ‘I'm certain it's far beyond your comprehension. Why don't you just go fly a kite?’
      • ‘If someone suggests that you should go fly a kite today, it's probably because you've been too intense.’
      • ‘Franklin wanted the turkey and they told him to go fly a kite.’
  • on the fly

    • 1While in motion or progress.

      ‘his deep shot was caught on the fly’
      • ‘I have numerous ways that I catch and categorize information on the fly.’
      • ‘Are your adventures carefully planned out in several notebooks, or done on the fly?’
      • ‘The rap against him is he makes mistakes in coverage and has trouble adjusting on the fly.’
      • ‘Mail was picked up on the fly using a catch arm on the side of the car swung out by a Railway Mail Clerk who at the same time kicked off a sack of mail for that place.’
      • ‘I ask you: who's speaking his heart, and who's crafting a response on the fly trying to cover all bases?’
      • ‘Workers must be able to access and manage their communications on the fly, and at a moment's notice from anywhere in the world.’
      • ‘It is a fantastic note-taking application, which will really aid those constantly collecting data on the fly.’
      • ‘This is not so much a carelessly structured story as a story made up on the fly.’
      • ‘She's able to do a translation on the fly and read the email to you in seamless English.’
      1. 1.1During the running of a computer program without interrupting the run.
        • ‘The tests even simulate how networks make bandwidth and other changes on the fly.’
        • ‘Most of the pages are generated on the fly through a database query.’
        • ‘This will provide instant access to company data in documents created on screen on the fly.’
        • ‘Graphical charts can be generated on the fly from this data or generated as static pages at scheduled intervals.’
        • ‘Volumes of storage can be allocated to application servers on the fly, without interrupting operation.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • fly at

    • 1Attack (someone) verbally or physically.

      ‘Robbie flew at him, fists clenched’
      • ‘Diana's eyes popped open and in a mindless rage she flew at him, beating her fists on everything she could reach.’
      • ‘Malcolm hadn't moved an inch, even as I'd been flying at him.’
      • ‘Before I can even think about it, I fly at him, with the express purpose of attacking him and leaving him nothing less than a non-breathing entity.’
      • ‘She flew at her father, beating him.’
      • ‘She flew at one of the attackers.’
      • ‘But springing back up, the teen didn't even miss a beat before he was flying at Greg again, fist raised for the attack.’
      • ‘She is locked up after flying at John Reed who beat her.’
      attack, assault, make an assault on, launch an attack on, pounce on, set upon, set about, launch oneself at, weigh into, let fly at, turn on, round on, lash out at, hit out at, strike out at, beset, belabour, fall on, accost, mug, charge, rush, storm
      lay into, tear into, lace into, sail into, pitch into, get stuck into, wade into, let someone have it, beat up, jump
      have a go at
      light into
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1(of a hawk) pursue and attack, or habitually pursue (prey)
        • ‘He compared the actions of parliament to a hawk flying at a covey of partridge.’
        • ‘Suddenly the hawk flies at something a long way off. It's a squirrel running on the ground.’
      2. 1.2Send a hawk to pursue and attack (prey)
        • ‘For a time I flew a hawk at ducks on certain small ponds about a quarter hour's drive from my laboratory.’
        • ‘The Emperor himself living in a wooden house, his exercise only flying a hawk at pigeons.’
        • ‘He let fly a hawk at some game.’
        • ‘Training and flying a hawk at prey species is what falconry is all about.’
        • ‘I love better to fly a hawk at a heron, or to crush a cup with a friend, than. listen to their droning chants and their dull sermons.’


Old English flēogan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch vliegen and German fliegen, also to fly.




Main definitions of fly in English

: fly1fly2fly3



  • 1A flying insect of a large order characterized by a single pair of transparent wings and sucking (and often also piercing) mouthparts. Flies are noted as vectors of disease.

    See also diptera
    • ‘Sensitive hairs on their bodies send data directly to the wings, so these flies can take off the instant motion is detected.’
    • ‘The adult female fly lays her eggs in moist decaying animal and plant wastes.’
    • ‘Manure stored in silo-type storage units may crust on the top, but cracks allow flies to deposit eggs in wet material below the crust.’
    • ‘Raw and cooked food should always be kept and handled separately, and all food should be kept covered and out of the way of flies!’
    • ‘Almost 40 years ago Ed Lewis discovered a remarkable fly that differs from an ordinary fly by one extra pair of wings.’
    • ‘I stayed near the opening where a small swarm of flies buzzed about outside.’
    • ‘The wind blew the row cover off the seed bed leaving the tender young radishes exposed to the flies.’
    • ‘Failing to cover body wastes in open latrines promoted the spread of disease by flies.’
    • ‘Spiders, she has reasoned correctly, are the natural predators of flies.’
    • ‘They had a telescope where you could see a fly on a chimney from 300 feet away.’
    • ‘She batted at the flies with her gloved hand and sighed.’
    • ‘The picture was so sharp I could see the flies buzzing around the animals.’
    • ‘The mature larva emerges from the wound in six to 12 weeks, falls to the ground, and pupates into adult flies in about 30 days.’
    • ‘A single fly was placed on the platform, and placidly stayed there, motionless, until the test stimulus was presented.’
    • ‘The caterers spent the entire time flapping their arms in a furious, but futile attempt to discourage the flies.’
    • ‘Insects, especially beetles, caterpillars, moths, and flies, are the most common prey.’
    • ‘The right wings of flies were removed using fine forceps and mounted on microscope slides using double-sided tape.’
    • ‘They spend their days empty bellied and covered with a swarm of flies.’
    • ‘There were also winged salamanders feasting on flying insects such as flies and mosquitoes.’
    • ‘On the up side, with the arrival of the rain came the departure of the flies.’
    1. 1.1[usually in combination]Used in names of flying insects of other orders, e.g., butterfly, dragonfly, firefly.
      • ‘The horn fly, Haematobia irritans, is probably the most important economically damaging ectoparasite of grazing cattle.’
      • ‘Donald Feener is an ecologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City who studies the relationship between parasitic flies and ants.’
      • ‘These are visited by a diverse array of animals, including bees, hawk moths, beetles, butterflies, long-tongued flies, hummingbirds and bats.’
      • ‘This diminutive wasp is a powerful natural enemy of the melon fly.’
      • ‘The female gall fly lays her eggs in young buds, causing the plant to form galls.’
      • ‘A large lantern insect, the mealy fly is a sucking bug.’
      • ‘In the garden dill attracts beneficial insects, including bees, parasitic wasps and tachinid flies.’
      • ‘The same is true of tsetse flies that bring sleeping sickness to animals.’
      • ‘The scientists say similar decoys can be tailor-made for other insect pests closely related to the apple maggot fly.’
      • ‘After a while I became quite good at spotting tsetse flies in the bungalow.’
      • ‘The Old World hunter fly seemingly enjoys a challenge.’
      • ‘Why did the common name fruit fly supersede vinegar or pomace fly?’
    2. 1.2An infestation of flying insects on a plant or animal.
      ‘cattle to be treated for warble fly’
      • ‘Some of the young bulbs on the lower deck are still green and you have to be alert for green fly.’
      • ‘The Mock Orange bush has a bad case of black fly already, and the rose bush has greenfly.’
      • ‘Where Mediterranean fruit fly is a potential problem, bait should be laid six weeks before picking.’
    3. 1.3A natural or artificial flying insect used as bait in fishing, especially a mayfly.
      • ‘For early season use most anglers tend to fish the flies deeper and so use heavier hooks.’
      • ‘The best flies are streamers, those big creations that imitate bait fish or large nymphs.’
      • ‘Jimmy has tied flies for international fishing teams.’
      • ‘After all, he drove to the Big Hole in an automobile, fished with a fiberglass rod, and tied flies with synthetic materials.’
      • ‘I wound in all my line, clipped off the fly, stowed the rod away and sat down in my padded seat.’
      • ‘Lee not only produces flies commercially but also provides fly tying materials.’
      • ‘Big perch can be taken on flies, spinners and plugs and in some areas there are big roach.’
      • ‘The artificial fly represents a food item be it insect, crustacean or smaller fish.’
      • ‘Although many game anglers tie their own flies, very few bother to make their own fly rods.’
      • ‘Take the advice of local anglers for choice of flies and small popping plugs.’
      • ‘There seems to be a culture that now associates using artificial lures and flies with the need to conserve our stocks for the future.’
      • ‘It doesn't seem to have any stretch which helps set the hook when your fishing deep with very big flies.’
      • ‘I use knotless tapered leaders but after attaching a few flies I tie in some tippet material when needed.’
      • ‘It was taken on a light trout rod at Beat 4 by Dutch angler Ulrich Treusch, who was using one of his own fly tying - a fly named the Morbun Special.’
      • ‘And, then, there are those things that give fly fishing its name - the flies.’
      • ‘In fact, it was Victorian fly fishermen, not scientists, who first studied these insects closely in order to imitate them with artificial flies.’
      • ‘Unlike in trout fishing, where an artificial fly is used, anglers hunting pike tend to go for bait such as small fish.’
      • ‘Then as I retrieved it slowly, I could see a good rainbow following in the wake of the fly.’
      • ‘These flies may have brightly coloured bodies or long hackles and we can only guess at what the trout think they are.’
      • ‘Additionally, I do not like my flies too bulky and find that two strands of herl would be the most that I ever use.’


  • die (or drop) like flies

    • Die or collapse in large numbers.

      ‘people in the area seemed to die like flies in the winter’
      • ‘When people are dropping like flies in plagues and epidemics, some actually recover, while others in their midst remain unscathed.’
      • ‘My friends and classmates are dropping like flies, following me into the realm of living death.’
      • ‘Do you mean to tell me that they are just going to sit there while people continue to drop like flies and offer no solutions?’
      • ‘Only a few days ago I was feeling smug about not coming down with anything even though my workmates were dropping like flies.’
      • ‘Inmates are dropping like flies and being taken for emergency medical treatment.’
      • ‘Children died like flies in those conditions.’
      • ‘They say that if these farmers are forced out of unproductive farming because of globalisation, then they will die like flies.’
      • ‘The fine animals that had endured the hellish voyage out from Britain died like flies from cold and sheer starvation.’
      • ‘It saddens me at the end of every semester to see my dance mates dropping like flies because of injuries.’
      • ‘Imagine you are being attacked from every angle, and your troops and vehicles are dropping like flies.’
  • a fly in the ointment

    • A minor irritation that spoils the success or enjoyment of something.

      • ‘There is one fly in the ointment with Morris' plan - we don't have the money to do it.’
      • ‘But there was still a tiny fly in the ointment - the sticky issue of which parent would gain custody of the kids in the unfortunate event of divorce.’
      • ‘Yes, don't you know I'm going to throw a fly in the ointment?’
      • ‘There is, of course, one fly in the ointment, and that is the fact that space exploration costs money.’
      • ‘The fly in the ointment for the Democrats, as reflected in this poll, is that they still don't have a candidate.’
      • ‘The fly in the ointment will be if there are major planning hold-ups.’
      • ‘The only fly in the ointment is the difficulty in getting good-sized crowds through the turnstiles.’
      • ‘Am feeling fairly chilled at the moment - the only fly in the ointment at the moment is that Mum is coming to visit tomorrow’
      • ‘Needless to say there is a bureaucratic fly in the ointment.’
      • ‘The fly in the ointment for City fans is that if Spurs win their final game they could edge out both teams’
      snag, hitch, catch, drawback, difficulty, problem, weakness, defect, pitfall, complication
      obstacle, hurdle, barrier, stumbling block, bar, hindrance, impediment, handicap, disadvantage, restriction, limitation
      hiccup, facer
      spanner in the works
      monkey wrench in the works
      View synonyms
  • fly on the wall

    • 1An unnoticed observer of a particular situation.

      • ‘Most contemporary memoirs leave you feeling cheap, like you've been a fly on the wall at a particularly horrific therapy session.’
      • ‘If you were a fly on the wall at last Wednesday's annual general meeting in Limerick you could not fail to have been impressed by the way he withstood heckling from farmer shareholders.’
      • ‘I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in last week's Cabinet meeting.’
      • ‘Should we be a fly on the wall, monitoring the conversations back and forth?’
      • ‘They will report back in six months with their recommendations, but, oh, to be a fly on the wall as this little lot get around the table.’
      • ‘It is very disconcerting to be a fly on the wall as a band figures out what musical style best suits them (something that is generally determined before the studio album is recorded).’
      • ‘He reveals details of boardroom machinations and backstairs skirmishes which only a fly on the wall could have witnessed.’
      • ‘Oh, to be a fly on the wall during all these discussions.’
      • ‘I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation.’
      • ‘Women are born with the instinctive knowledge that men would love to snoop on our lunch conversations, or be a fly on the wall when we nip to the ladies for a little light synchronised nose-powdering.’
      observer, spectator, onlooker, watcher, looker-on, viewer, witness, eyewitness
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1[as adjective]Denoting a filmmaking technique whereby events are observed realistically with minimum interference rather than acted out under direction.
        ‘a fly-on-the-wall documentary’
        • ‘You take a very fly-on-the-wall approach which allows the viewer to form their own opinions.’
        • ‘It's a simple premise - a fly on the wall documentary in a London beauty salon.’
        • ‘The English actor detests reality TV, but admits he may have to appear in a fly-on-the-wall show if his acting career dries up.’
        • ‘This spoof, fly on the wall, documentary is funny, scary, provocative, disturbing and has a real point to make.’
        • ‘Does anyone remember that fly on the wall documentary on channel 4 where some teenage kids looked after real children?’
        • ‘This is a ‘fly on the wall’ film in which we get to see the 3 band members in all their true colours.’
        • ‘I get increasingly exasperated by TV - cookery, gardening, soaps and fly on the wall documentaries all irritate me.’
  • wouldn't hurt (or harm) a fly

    • (of a person or animal) inoffensive and harmless.

      • ‘A close friend, who did not want to be named, today described Lorrie as a ‘lovely, shy man who had a heart of gold and wouldn't hurt a fly’.’
      • ‘I never really knew what kind of dog he was exactly, I just knew that he was a good dog and wouldn't hurt a fly.’
      • ‘Yet, when people meet the man, they find that he is funny, genial, witty and charming and seemingly wouldn't hurt a fly, let alone drive a rival out of business.’
      • ‘He was always kind to everyone and he literally wouldn't harm a fly.’
      • ‘He's a full bred Staffordshire Bullpit Rottweiler, and though he occasionally chews the bottom of the backdoor off, he's a harmless and lovable creature that wouldn't hurt a fly.’
      • ‘While I'm a passive guy and wouldn't harm a fly, I did have the sudden urge to blow something up real good.’
      • ‘In the witness box he looked like a frail, old man, the type who wouldn't hurt a fly, with always a pleasant word for the neighbours.’
      • ‘Phyllis was really nice - she wouldn't hurt a fly.’
      • ‘She had loads of friends and wouldn't hurt a fly.’
      • ‘He wouldn't harm a fly, but his depression seems to have twisted his mind.’
  • you (can) catch more flies with honey than (with) vinegar

    • proverb It is more effective to be polite and flattering than to be hostile or demanding.

      • ‘Whoever said you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar had no clue.’
      • ‘You're making bald accusations against him, but you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, you know.’
      • ‘I accepted her criticisms, recognizing that I would probably catch more flies with honey than vinegar.’
      • ‘So what's wrong with a book whose basic message is: you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?’
      • ‘She sought to be less confrontational under the assumption that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.’
      • ‘I have no reason to believe that "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" doesn't apply to politics.’
      • ‘The government's subdued reaction to the case is just another case where you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.’
      • ‘Someone should teach them that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.’
      • ‘Her thesis in this piece appears to be that female academics ought to be using their wiles to confront inequality because "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar".’


Old English flȳge, flēoge, denoting any winged insect; related to Dutch vlieg and German Fliege, also to fly.




Main definitions of fly in English

: fly1fly2fly3



  • 1North American Stylish and fashionable.

    ‘they were wearin' fly clothes’
    • ‘Babs wants to know if her romance with the fly guy she met last year is for keeps.’
    • ‘If your neighbor's got a fly crib or a pimped-out set of wheels, that's their business, not yours.’
    • ‘I was looking for the fly stuff, and I don't mean fishing gear.’
    • ‘Ryan's a super fly dude.’
    • ‘Anyone can be fly, race has no bearing on who is fly and who is not.’
  • 2British Knowing and clever; worldly-wise.

    ‘she's fly enough not to get done out of it’
    • ‘I would ask you to bear in mind that Broome is a very fly and slippery character.’
    • ‘Never in the history of nannies has there been a more fly nanny than Julie Andrews.’
    • ‘I'm too fly to admit anything to youse guys.’
    • ‘This sort of manoeuvre must have been what one shadow cabinet colleague had in mind when he privately described the politician as ‘an extremely fly operator’.’


Early 19th century: of unknown origin.