I caught this on an 'odd words' sort of program on public radio, but didn't hear the full word pronounced, just that it started with an 'f'. I studied the unabridged OED for a bit, but couldn't find it. Can anybody help me? To be clear, this was a single word.

Player running

  • Flying? That's what it looks like, anyway. :-) – Kristina Lopez Sep 10 '14 at 16:16
  • The"Flying bird". – Mohamed Hamza Sep 10 '14 at 16:19
  • 3
    What a fantastic question! – Fattie Sep 10 '14 at 16:28
  • GGGOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!! – Niall Sep 10 '14 at 22:09

I believe I've found it, everyone (and @Justin R.)

The 2nd definition for "FLICHTER", as published in A Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language: Supplement, Volume 1, page 418.

Flichter 2. To run with outspread arms, like a tame goose half-flying; applied to children, when running to those to whom they are much attached...

and others, like: A Dictionary of the Scottish Language By John Jamieson, John Johnstone (search "flichter"), but the definition reproduced above I particularly like.

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    I see now that this word is in the list above, but the specific definition is only in a few books. – CRGreen Sep 13 '14 at 10:21

It's not exactly common, but...

He'd been airplaning around, whooping with the other boys.
I ... aeroplaned back and forth and high fived as many as I could. (note this picture in that blog)

...is the most likely verb I know. From OED...

aeroplane verb 2. intr.
To fly or glide like an aeroplane (rare)

(the airplane/aeroplane distinction is irrelevant here). Note that although flying might seem credible, in practice it wouldn't be likely because that would normally be understood to simply mean moving quickly (an idiomatic usage which is so well-established it no longer has any significant allusion to wings).

My guess is that the "f-word" OP has in mind is...

flail - to wave or swing wildly

...but it should be noted that this is usually used figuratively to denote a useless, ineffectual activity, or a vigorous physical attack, rather than the joyous triumphal display of OP's context.

  • 1
    That is an Italian football player called Vincenzo Montella, who played for Roma. He's known for his l'aeroplanino (small airplane). And, of course, it's on Wikipedia. Link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goal_celebration Here's one more link to nail the answer beyondtoscano.com/idiomatic-expression/… – Mari-Lou A Sep 10 '14 at 20:02
  • @Mari-Lou: That's all grist to the mill, but actually neither of your links explicitly feature to airplane as a verb. I just went back to search Google Books for a second citation to add to the one I'd already put in the answer - but I couldn't find any really good ones, so I've put in a link to a blog instead. Okay, it would have been better to have a "published" instance, but I quite like that blog entry because it includes a picture very similar to OP's. – FumbleFingers Sep 10 '14 at 20:35

Verbs that go fl-!

You asked for an “odd word” beginning with f- meaning a verb for someone running about with arms outstretched like some falcon wheeling in a kettle.

Now, if you had asked for a common word, this would have been easy. That’s because common verbs beginning with fl- and relating to flitting or flipping or flapping — or to flittering or fluttering, or flurrying or flinging, or flying or fleeing or flailing — positively abound in English. That’s just a short sample, too; I’m sure you can think of quite a few more to add to that list yourself.

Indeed, there are so many of these that there must surely exist professional linguistics papers that investigate what the common fl‑ element in all of these “means”. Perhaps if we are lucky, John Lawler will point us towards some.

But you didn’t want a common word. Since you have specifically asked for an “odd word”, it turns out that there are even more of these fl‑ verbs than most people realize, ones which are now variously uncommon, rare, literary, archaic, obsolete, dialectal — or just plain Scottish. :)

Many flawed fl‑ verbs which alas did not make the cut due to a mismatch of meaning but which are delightful verbs nonetheless include the flouncingly florulent flimp and flume, flivver and flimmer, flapadoodle and flapdragon.

But some ten flagrantly flashy fl- words did make the cut, and which therefore are flected and reflected in greater detail below, are the flamboyantly flairsome flacket, flaff, flanch, flaughter, flichter, flisk, flizz, floister, flurr, and flusker.

Without further hints from you, there is really no way to know “which” one if any of these following ten applies to your case. But I think some are fine candidates indeed.

All citations below are abbreviated excerpts from the OED, with various things left out, including alternate words spelled the same way, senses that would not apply to your case, and almost all examples of printed use.

flacket /ˈflækɪt/, v. dial. and U.S.

Etymology: freq. of flack v.: cf. ONor. flo̧kta of same meaning.

intr. To flap about.

flaff /flæf/, v. Sc.

Etymology: onomatopœic; cf. flap.

  1. intr. To flap, make a flapping; to flutter. Of the lungs or heart: To pant or throb.

  2. trans. To flap (the wings).

Hence ˈflaffing vbl. sb. and ppl. a.

flanch /flɑːnʃ/, /-æ-/, v.

Etymology: Of obscure origin; there would seem to be some connexion with the synonymous flan v.; but the relation between the two words is not explained by any known process of derivation. Assuming the primary sense to be ‘to extend laterally’, flanch might conceivably be derived from Fr. flanc flank; but no vb. *flancher of similar sense has been discovered in Fr. of any period.

An OFr. flanchir, flangir, flainchir occurs as a synonym (perh. a variant) of flechir to bend (cf. flinch). Can the Eng. vb. be an adoption of this in a specialized sense?

intr. To spread, widen out; to slope outwards towards the top. Also with out, off. to flanch up: to slope inwards towards the top; applied especially to the outsides of chimney-shafts.

flaughter /ˈflaxtər/, v.2 Sc. and north. dial.

Etymology: app. f. flaught sb.2; cf. flichter, floghter vbs.

  1. intr. To make a fluttering motion; also of a light, to flicker.

  2. a. intr. To be in a flutter; to be angry or afraid. b. trans. To put into a flutter; to frighten, flurry.

Hence ˈflaughter sb., a fluttering motion, flutter.

flichter, flighter /ˈflɪxtə(r)/, v.1 Sc.

Etymology: ? f. flicht, flight v.; see -er5. Cf. flaughter v.2

  1. intr. Of a bird: To beat its wings, fly irregularly or feebly, flutter. Of inanimate objects: To flutter, move quivering through the air.

flisk /flɪsk/, v. Now dial.

Etymology: onomatopœia expressive of a sudden movement through the air; cf. whisk.

  1. intr. To move or dance about in a frolicsome way; to frisk. Of a horse: To be restive.

flizz /flɪz/, v. dial.

Etymology: onomatopœic; cf. whiz.
(See quot.) Hence ˈflizzing vbl. sb.

  • 1674 Ray N.C. Words 18 ― Flizze, to Fly off.

ˈfloister, v.

  • 1847 Halliwell, ― Floistering, skittish, boyish.

flurr /flɜː(r)/, v.

Etymology: ? onomatopœic.

  1. trans. To scatter, throw about; also with up.
  2. intr. To fly up; to fly with whirring or fluttering wings.

flusker /ˈflʌskə(r)/, v. Obs. exc. dial.

Etymology: freq. of flusk ‘to fly at, as two cocks’ (‘Tim Bobbin’ Lanc. Dial.), ‘to startle a bird out of a bush’ (Almondbury Gloss., E.D.S.). Cf. flush v.1, flasker v.

  1. a. intr. To flutter or fly irregularly.
  2. trans. To fluster, confuse. Only in pass.

Hence ˈfluskering vbl. sb. and ppl. a.

          I am off down the road
          Where the fairy lanterns glowed
          And the little pretty flitter-mice are flying. . . .

                               ―“Goblin Feet” by JRR Tolkien


The show was probably "My Word", and I'm wondering if it is an obscure use of (or form of) "fathom", since the word originates from an Old English word meaning [the length of] "outstretched arms". Sadly there is no archive of every My Word episode, and I won't get hold of my OED until late tonight. (see http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=fathom&searchmode=none)

  • I've never come acrosss the usage, and I see no support in OED for this extended meaning in OED. Apart from the obvious establish water depth with a fathom-line, the verb to fathom also means to encircle with extended arms (in order to measure it). Hence figuratively, to get the measure of = to understand. I simply don't believe it would ever have been used for a footballer's victory display or anything remotely like that. – FumbleFingers Sep 11 '14 at 11:38

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