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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
flail
I.verb
COLLOCATIONS FROM CORPUS
■ ADVERB
about
▪ She is flailing about in a cultural whirlpool of conflicting expectations, standards and demands.
around
▪ He flailed around on the snow.
▪ It felt as though some one was pulling my lifeline away from me and I was flailing around, trying to grab hold of it.
EXAMPLES FROM OTHER ENTRIES
Flailing his arms, Sam nearly knocked the vase to the floor.
EXAMPLES FROM CORPUS
▪ Again they started their wild synchronous flailing.
▪ He flailed for balance with his sabre arm, then screamed because he saw the heavy sword coming at his throat.
▪ Her body went rigid, her arms slapping and flailing the bed.
▪ I could not stop flailing away at the ball.
▪ Lucien made a small, indignant sound, his arms flailing before he recovered his poise.
▪ Sonny went staggering back, arms flailing, spitting blood and fragments of teeth.
▪ Suddenly, the police charged down Catherine, flailing with their sticks.
II.noun
EXAMPLES FROM CORPUS
▪ Does a father react angrily when his tired, overwhelmed twelve-month-old flails out and hits him on the nose?
▪ Each sported two flails of sinuous steel tentacles and a crab-like claw.
▪ It would also catch grain bounding off the floor with the force of flail threshing.
▪ Or use a flexible tree branch or heavy jacket as a flail to beat the person back.
▪ This Teddy, so the tale went, had had one paw removed and a small flail with leather tails sewn on.
▪ What hedges still remain are no longer laid but occasionally slashed by a mobile mechanical flail.
The Collaborative International Dictionary
Flail

Flail \Flail\, n. [L. flagellum whip, scourge, in LL., a threshing flail: cf. OF. flael, flaiel, F. fl['e]au. See Flagellum.]

  1. An instrument for threshing or beating grain from the ear by hand, consisting of a wooden staff or handle, at the end of which a stouter and shorter pole or club, called a swipe, is so hung as to swing freely.

    His shadowy flail hath threshed the corn.
    --Milton.

  2. An ancient military weapon, like the common flail, often having the striking part armed with rows of spikes, or loaded.
    --Fairholt.

    No citizen thought himself safe unless he carried under his coat a small flail, loaded with lead, to brain the Popish assassins.
    --Macaulay.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary
flail

implement for threshing grain, c.1100, perhaps from an unrecorded Old English *flegel, which, if it existed, probably is from West Germanic *flagil (cognates: Middle Dutch and Low German vlegel, Old High German flegel, German flegel), a West Germanic borrowing of Late Latin flagellum "winnowing tool, flail," in classical Latin "a whip" (see flagellum).

flail

mid-15c., "to whip, scourge," from flail (n.). Sense of "to move like a flail" is from 1873. Related: Flailed; flailing.

Wiktionary
flail

n. 1 A tool used for threshing, consisting of a long handle with a shorter stick attached with a short piece of chain, thong or similar material. 2 A weapon which has the (usually spherical) striking part attached to the handle with a flexible joint such as a chain. vb. 1 (context transitive English) To beat using a flail or similar implement. 2 (context transitive English) To wave or swing vigorously 3 (context transitive English) To thresh. 4 (context intransitive English) To move like a flail.

WordNet
flail
  1. n. an implement consisting of handle with a free swinging stick at the end; used in manual threshing

  2. v. give a thrashing to; beat hard [syn: thrash, thresh, lam]

  3. move like a flail; thresh about; "Her arms were flailing" [syn: thresh]

Wikipedia
Flail (weapon)

The term flail refers to two different weapons: a long, two-handed infantry weapon with a cylindrical head, and a shorter weapon with a round metal striking head. The defining characteristic of both is that they involve a separate striking head attached to a handle by a flexible rope, strap, or chain. The chief tactical virtue of the flail was its capacity to strike around a defender's shield or parry. Its chief liability was a lack of precision and the difficulty of using it in close combat, or closely ranked formations.

The longer cylindrical-headed flail is a hand weapon derived from the agricultural tool of the same name, commonly used in threshing. It was primarily considered a peasant's weapon, and while not common, they were deployed in Germany and Central Europe in the later Late Middle Ages. The smaller, more spherical-headed flail appears to be even less common; it appears occasionally in artwork from the 15th century onward, but many historians have expressed doubts that it ever saw use as an actual military weapon.

Flail (disambiguation)

A flail is an agricultural implement for threshing.

Several tools operate similarly to the agricultural implement and are also called flails:

  • Flail (weapon), a ball-on-a-chain bludgeon wielded with one hand by armored knights in single combat or medieval battles
  • Mine flail, a vehicle mounted device for removing land mines
  • The cutting part in some designs of brush hog, woodchipper and stump grinder
Flail

A flail is an agricultural tool used for threshing, the process of separating grains from their husks.

It is usually made from two or more large sticks attached by a short chain; one stick is held and swung, causing the other (the swipple) to strike a pile of grain, loosening the husks. The precise dimensions and shape of flails were determined by generations of farmers to suit the particular grain they were harvesting. For example, flails used by farmers in Quebec to process wheat were generally made from two pieces of wood, the handle being about long by in diameter, and the second stick being about long by about in diameter, with a slight taper towards the end. Flails for other grains, such as rice or spelt, would have had different dimensions. Flails have generally fallen into disuse in many nations because of the availability of technologies such as combine harvesters that require much less manual labour. But in many places, such as Minnesota, wild rice can only be harvested legally using manual means, specifically through the use of a canoe and a flail that is made of smooth, round wood no more than 30 inches long.

Usage examples of "flail".

The swordsman ducked under Ballas flailing arms and sent a disembowelling cut across Ballas belly.

Poor Ferdy started to look sick, flailing about with all four legs, until Barong caught him and held him still.

At least one Batavian had died under the flailing feet before the rest learned that the safe place to be was behind him or far to the side.

A few beet had entered with the people, and there was pandemonium inside the parlour as people tried to kill the bees, upsetting glasses and dishes as they flailed around them with newspapers and maga.

Judging by his clumsiness, his flailing efforts, I thought that the blackheart must be impairing his motor control.

He screamed in sonar, bubbles pouring out of his blowhole and backed up, his tail flailing wildly.

He flailed for balance, snatched at the closest tablecloth and dragged a cascade of smashing china and chinking silver to the floor as he fell.

Men in padded suits armed with sacks would occupy the ambushes, and if the dogs got close without discovering an ambush, the men were to jump out and flail threateningly at them.

It was like flailing in deep water as the riptide drags you inexorably out to sea.

The barbaric Shinyar, near-naked and tattooed and earringed, flailed at the sagging defense, but their numbers and the confining cave walls prevented them surging like a tidal wave.

His body floats above the open creche, his flailing hands can get no grip.

It pulled its rear up in a great arch, vised its prolegs into the hard earth, took the weight of its forebody, and with a flail lifted it, straightening the tube of bodiness, the humanish torso high at the end of outstretched grub physiognomy that batted uncertainly at the air, then onto the spongy caterpillar forelegs.

First the Emeraldina would stand atop it, then she would be flung off by the Kesperle, who would be frightened off by the Hanswurst flailing a long sausage, who would in turn be chased off by the Emeraldina wielding a brick.

The fearless Ismaili Assassins, seeking sure reward in the afterlife, screamed the name of God and flung themselves into the midst of the enemy, blades flailing.

He wore a puffed and powdered wig, and a garish ensemble of matching justicoat, waistcoat and breeches, his ruffled cravat sprouting from beneath his overlapping chins like the desperate hand of a drowning victim, flailing for aid.