I need a verb that describe the phenomenon that occurs when a wing (like those of birds, or, for that matter, insects) is caught in a strong transverse breeze. I was going to use the word flutter, but it seems to me that saying "its wings fluttered" implies that the wings in question were being controlled (at least to a certain extent) by the being to which they are attached. Is there a word (or a short phrase if necessary, but a single word would be ideal) that means the same as flutter but without the mentioned connotation of control?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Drew, Ellie Kesselman, Dan Bron, ScotM, Centaurus May 13 '15 at 0:00

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    flap: intr. v. 1 to sway loosely, usually with a noise of striking and especially when moved by wind – pyobum May 12 '15 at 0:43
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    There's nothing about "flutter" that implies the presence or absence of control. Leaves flutter in the breeze. And "flutter" in an aircraft often indicates lack of adequate control. – Hot Licks May 12 '15 at 1:12

Maybe instead of attaching the verb to the wings, you can attach it to the breeze instead?

"The breeze whiffled the bird's feathers."

Merriam's definition: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whiffle

or if you really wanted to attach the verb to the wing, another suggestion would be quiver. While it is not directly synonymous to "flutter", it has the same action, which is the light shaking of the feathers. But if you used this it would probably appear that it was due to the cold.

"Its wings quivered."

Merriam's definition of quiver: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quiver

  • Thank you! I didn't even think of rearranging the sentence; also, I really like whiffle. :) – Ptharien's Flame May 12 '15 at 0:58
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    @Ptharien'sFlame no problem! if you think this helped you, perhaps you could accept my answer? :) – potatoesandnoodles May 12 '15 at 1:03

Flailed. Flail. wave or swing or cause to wave or swing wildly. "his arms were flailing helplessly"

  • "Flail" actually has a stronger connotation of control than "flutter", as far as I'm aware. :/ – Ptharien's Flame May 12 '15 at 2:53

How about flitter?

flitter - verb - Move quickly in an apparently random or purposeless manner.

flitter - noun - A fluttering movement.

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    Only butterflies and small birds flitter. – Hot Licks May 12 '15 at 2:06
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    No, that is flitted. A wing can flitter. You just need to believe. – Lumberjack May 12 '15 at 2:19

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