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[weyl] /weɪl/
verb (used without object)
to utter a prolonged, inarticulate, mournful cry, usually high-pitched or clear-sounding, as in grief or suffering:
to wail with pain.
to make mournful sounds, as music or the wind.
to lament or mourn bitterly.
Jazz. to perform exceptionally well.
Slang. to express emotion musically or verbally in an exciting, satisfying way.
verb (used with object)
to express deep sorrow for; mourn; lament; bewail:
to wail the dead; to wail one's fate.
to express in wailing; cry or say in lamentation:
to wail one's grief.
the act of wailing.
a wailing cry, as of grief, pain, or despair.
any similar mournful sound:
the wail of an old tune.
Origin of wail
1300-50; Middle English weile (v. and noun), perhaps derivative of Old English weilā(wei) well-away; compare Old English wǣlan to torment, Old Norse wǣla to wail
Related forms
wailer, noun
wailingly, adverb
unwailed, adjective
unwailing, adjective
Can be confused
wail, whale. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for wailing
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Almost immediately the wailing of emergency sirens could be heard spreading the alarm over the city.

    Treachery in Outer Space Carey Rockwell and Louis Glanzman
  • A wailing cry from the wind seemed to echo the pain in his voice.

    The Wall Between Sara Ware Bassett
  • The women were hanging over Chaereas and wailing, the other men trying to restore peace.

  • Of wailing winds and naked woods and meadows brown and sear.

    Familiar Quotations John Bartlett
  • The women were all screaming, wailing, weeping and fainting.

    The Story of Don Quixote Arvid Paulson, Clayton Edwards, and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
British Dictionary definitions for wailing


(intransitive) to utter a prolonged high-pitched cry, as of grief or misery
(intransitive) to make a sound resembling such a cry: the wind wailed in the trees
(transitive) to lament, esp with mournful sounds
a prolonged high-pitched mournful cry or sound
Derived Forms
wailer, noun
wailful, adjective
wailfully, adverb
Word Origin
C14: of Scandinavian origin; related to Old Norse vǣla to wail, Old English woe
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for wailing



early 14c., from Old Norse væla "to lament," from "woe" (see woe). Of jazz musicians, "to play very well," attested from 1955, American English slang (wailing "excellent" is attested from 1954). Related: Wailed.


c.1400; see wail (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for wailing



: By passing his vocal sounds through an amplifier with the aid of a wah-wah pedal, he has achieved spectacular effects/ Mike McCready's wahwah pedaling?


  1. A pronounced wavering, scooping sound from an instrument, the voice, etc: imitations of animal sounds such as wah-wahs on trumpets and trombones/ Then Wah-Wah Waddy breaks into his est funkadeli solo (1920s+ Musicians)
  2. pedal-operated electronic device for producing wah-wahs, esp on electric guitars: the same kind of highly-perfected control over use of the wah-wah, distortion, and amplifier

[echoic; interestingly similar to Chinook jargon wawa, ''speech, talk,'' and to Cree wawa, an echoic name for the snow goose, Canada goose, and gray goose]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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