Smaller than the chicken and not as well known as the pigeon, quail is like the often-overlooked middle child of the ground-dwelling bird family. Quail can also mean to cringe in fear or pain. So if you are a quail, you might quail at the thought of quail-hunting season.

Quail is a broad, catchall word; it can refer to any one of many small domestic game birds. So if you’re bragging about the quail you shot on a hunting trip to your uptight, bird-obsessed pals, they might demand to know if it was the Bobwhite quail, the Valley quail or the Scaled quail, to name just a few. If you use this word as a verb, it means to draw back in fear or pain. You might quail in fear at the sight of a playground bully. A good way to remember this verb meaning is to think of how the word chicken is also associated with fear.

Primary Meanings of quail

small gallinaceous game birds
draw back, as with fear or pain
Full Definitions of quail

n small gallinaceous game birds

show 5 types...
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bobwhite, bobwhite quail, partridge
a popular North American game bird; named for its call
Old World quail
small game bird with a rounded body and small tail
California quail, Lofortyx californicus
plump chunky bird of coastal California and Oregon
Colinus virginianus, northern bobwhite
a favorite game bird of eastern and central United States
Coturnix communis, Coturnix coturnix, migratory quail
the typical Old World quail
Type of:
a kind of game bird in the family Phasianidae

n flesh of quail; suitable for roasting or broiling if young; otherwise must be braised

Type of:
flesh of any of a number of wild game birds suitable for food

v draw back, as with fear or pain

cringe, flinch, funk, recoil, shrink, squinch, wince
retract, shrink back
pull away from a source of disgust or fear
Type of:
move so as to change position, perform a nontranslational motion

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