• noun a wooden hand tool used for beating grain to separate the seeds from the waste parts
  • noun a type of hedgecutter, with rapidly turning cutting arms


  • verb to thrash around with uncontrollable or violent movements, particularly of the arms


  • noun a set of revolving chains attached to the front of a tank or armoured engineer vehicle, designed to clear a way through a minefield by detonating the mines in its path

Origin & History of “flail”

Flail is a distant relative of flagellation (15th c.). both go back ultimately to Latin flagrum ‘whip’. This had a diminutive form flagellum, which in prehistoric times was borrowed into west Germanic as *flagil-. It is assumed that Old English inherited it as *flegil (although this is not actually recorded), which, reinforced in middle English times by the related Old French flaiel, produced modern English flail. Flagellation comes from the derived Latin verb flagellāre ‘whip’.