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Definition fly

Etymology 1

From Middle English flye, flie, from Old English flȳġe, flēoge (“a fly”), from Proto-Germanic *fleugǭ (“a fly”), from Proto-Indo-European *plewk- (“to fly”). Cognate with Scots flee, Saterland Frisian Fljooge, Dutch vlieg, German Low German Fleeg, German Fliege, Danish flue, Swedish fluga, Icelandic fluga.


fly (plural flies)

  1. (zoology) Any insect of the order Diptera; characterized by having two wings (except for some wingless species), also called true flies.
  2. (non-technical) Especially, any of the insects of the family Muscidae, such as the common housefly (other families of Diptera include mosquitoes and midges).
  3. Any similar, but unrelated insect such as dragonfly or butterfly.
  4. (fishing) A lightweight fishing lure resembling an insect.
  5. (weightlifting) A chest exercise performed by moving extended arms from the sides to in front of the chest. (also flye)
  6. (obsolete) A witch's familiar.
  7. (obsolete) A parasite.
  8. (swimming) The butterfly stroke (plural is normally flys)
  9. A simple dance in which the hands are shaken in the air, popular in the 1960s.

Etymology 2

From Middle English flien, from Old English flēogan, from Proto-Germanic *fleuganą (compare Saterland Frisian fljooge, Dutch vliegen, Low German flegen, German fliegen, Danish flyve, Norwegian Nynorsk flyga), from Proto-Indo-European *plewk- (*plew-k-, “to fly”) (compare Lithuanian plaũkti ‘to swim’), enlargement of *plew- (“flow”). More at flee and flow.


fly (third-person singular simple present flies, present participle flying, simple past flew, past participle flown)

  1. (intransitive) To travel through the air, another gas, or a vacuum, without being in contact with a grounded surface.
  2. (transitive, intransitive, archaic, poetic) To flee, to escape (from).
  3. (transitive, ergative) To cause to fly (travel or float in the air): to transport via air or the like.
  4. (intransitive, colloquial, of a proposal, project or idea) To be accepted, come about or work out.
  5. (intransitive) To travel very fast, hasten.
  6. To move suddenly, or with violence; to do an act suddenly or swiftly.
  7. (transitive, ergative) To display (a flag) on a flagpole.
  8. To hunt with a hawk.

fly (plural flies)

  1. (obsolete) The action of flying; flight.
  2. An act of flying.
  3. (baseball) A fly ball.
  4. (now historical) A type of small, fast carriage (sometimes pluralised flys).
  5. A piece of canvas that covers the opening at the front of a tent.
  6. (often plural) A strip of material (sometimes hiding zippers or buttons) at the front of a pair of trousers, pants, underpants, bootees, etc.
  7. The free edge of a flag.
  8. The horizontal length of a flag.
  9. (weightlifting) An exercise that involves wide opening and closing of the arms perpendicular to the shoulders.
  10. The part of a vane pointing the direction from which the wind blows.
  11. (nautical) That part of a compass on which the points are marked; the compass card.
  12. Two or more vanes set on a revolving axis, to act as a fanner, or to equalize or impede the motion of machinery by the resistance of the air, as in the striking part of a clock.
  13. A heavy wheel, or cross arms with weights at the ends on a revolving axis, to regulate or equalize the motion of machinery by means of its inertia, where the power communicated, or the resistance to be overcome, is variable, as in the steam engine or the coining press. See flywheel.
  14. (historical) A light horse-drawn carriage that can be hired for transportation.
  15. In a knitting machine, the piece hinged to the needle, which holds the engaged loop in position while the needle is penetrating another loop; a latch.
  16. The pair of arms revolving around the bobbin, in a spinning wheel or spinning frame, to twist the yarn.
  17. (weaving) A shuttle driven through the shed by a blow or jerk.
  18. (printing, historical) The person who took the printed sheets from the press.
  19. (printing, historical) A vibrating frame with fingers, attached to a power printing press for doing the same work.
  20. One of the upper screens of a stage in a theatre.
  21. (cotton manufacture) waste cotton

fly (third-person singular simple present flies, present participle flying, simple past and past participle flied)

  1. (intransitive, baseball) To hit a fly ball; to hit a fly ball that is caught for an out. Compare ground (verb) and line (verb).

Etymology 3

Origin uncertain; probably from the verb or noun.


fly (comparative flier, superlative fliest)

  1. (slang, dated) Quick-witted, alert, mentally sharp.
  2. (slang) Well dressed, smart in appearance; in style, cool.
  3. (slang) Beautiful; displaying physical beauty.
  4. (slang, chiefly Doric) Sneaky

Etymology 4

Related to German Flügel (“a wing”), Dutch vleugel (“a wing”), Swedish flygel (“a wing”).


fly (plural flies)

  1. (rural, Scotland, Northern England) A wing.

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