To flail means to wave around wildly. If you are stranded on a deserted island and you see a ship in the distance, it’s a good idea to flail your arms in the air to get the captain’s attention.

Flail originates with the Latin word flagellum, which is a whip. It is also related to the noun flail, a stick with a swinging attachment to it, used to thresh grain. As a verb, it most often refers to arms, but can also involve the whole body, especially if someone is a very wild dancer. Other things can flail as well. If someone admits that his business is flailing, it’s probably lacking direction and not doing very well.

Definitions of flail
  1. noun
    an implement consisting of handle with a free swinging stick at the end; used in manual threshing
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    type of:
    instrumentation (a piece of equipment or tool) used to effect an end
  2. verb
    move like a flail; thresh about
    “Her arms were flailing
    synonyms: thresh
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    type of:
    beat, flap
    move with a flapping motion
  3. verb
    give a thrashing to; beat hard
    synonyms: lam, thrash, thresh
    annihilate, bat, clobber, cream, drub, lick, thrash
    beat thoroughly and conclusively in a competition or fight
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    type of:
    beat, beat up, work over
    give a beating to; subject to a beating, either as a punishment or as an act of aggression
Word Family
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