1. an instrument for threshing grain, consisting of a staff or handle to one end of which is attached a freely swinging stick or bar.
  2. a similar instrument used as a weapon of war.

verb (used with or without object)

  1. to beat or swing with or as if with a flail.


  1. an implement used for threshing grain, consisting of a wooden handle with a free-swinging metal or wooden bar attached to it
  2. a weapon so shaped used in the Middle Ages


  1. (tr) to beat or thrash with or as if with a flail
  2. to move or be moved like a flail; thresh aboutwith arms flailing

15c., from flail (n.); originally “to scourge;” sense of “to move like a flail” is from 1874. Related: Flailed; flailing.


“implement for threshing grain,” c.1100, perhaps from an unrecorded Old English *flegel, which probably represents West Germanic *flagil (cf. Middle Dutch and Low German vlegel, Old High German flegel, German flegel), a borrowing of Late Latin flagellum “winnowing tool, flail,” from Latin flagellum “whip” (see flagellum).


  1. To move vigorously or erratically; thrash about.
  2. To strike or lash out violently.

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