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[flap-er] /ˈflæp ər/
something broad and flat used for striking or for making a noise by striking.
a broad, flat, hinged or hanging piece; flap.
a young woman, especially one who, during the 1920s, behaved and dressed in a boldly unconventional manner.
a young bird just learning to fly.
Slang. the hand.
Origin of flapper
1560-70; flap + -er1
Related forms
flapperdom, noun
flapperish, adjective
flapperism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for flapper
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The flapper, he saw, was patting his hand at the table's edge.

    Bunker Bean Harry Leon Wilson
  • The flapper dashed into her letter with a sort of incoherent squeal.

  • Yet this suspicion slept when he was with the flapper alone.

    Bunker Bean Harry Leon Wilson
  • In less than fifty hours that case will be as empty as a flapper's skull.

    Skylark Three Edward Elmer Smith
  • He found he could strangely not be an upstart another moment in the presence of that flapper.

    Bunker Bean Harry Leon Wilson
  • In English there is flapper, in French there is ingnue, and in German there is backfisch.

    The American Language Henry L. Mencken
  • The wife isn't all there, she does her hair like a flapper and gushes extremely.

  • The flapper is released from the strangle hold that is throttling the rest of us.

    Nonsenseorship G. G. Putnam and Others
British Dictionary definitions for flapper


a person or thing that flaps
(in the 1920s) a young woman, esp one flaunting her unconventional dress and behaviour
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 flapper

"forward young woman," 1921 slang, from flap (v.), but the exact connection is disputed. Perhaps from flapper "young wild-duck or partridge" (1747), with reference to flapping wings while learning to fly, of which many late 19c. examples are listed in Wright's "English Dialect Dictionary" (1900), including one that defines it as "A young partridge unable to fly. Applied in joke to a girl of the bread-and-butter age."

But other suggested sources are late 19c. northern English dialectal use for "teen-age girl" (on notion of one with the hair not yet put up), or an earlier meaning "prostitute" (1889), which is perhaps from dialectal flap "young woman of loose character" (1610s). Any or all of these might have converged in the 1920s sense. Wright also has flappy, of persons, "wild, unsteady, flighty," with the note that it was also "Applied to a person's character, as 'a flappy lass,'" and further on he lists flappy sket (n.) "an immoral woman."

In Britain the word took on political tones in reference to the debate over voting rights.

"Flapper" is the popular press catch-word for an adult woman worker, aged twenty-one to thirty, when it is a question of giving her the vote under the same conditions as men of the same age. ["Punch," Nov. 30, 1927]

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



: the flapper era/ flat flapper chest


  1. The hand; flipper (1770s+)
  2. A young woman of the type fashionable in the 1920s, with pronounced worldly interests, relatively few inhibitions, a distinctive style of grooming, etc •The date refers to two senses, ''a young whore'' and ''a young girl''; the 1920s revival seems to blend these (1893+)

[origin uncertain; perhaps from the idea of an unfledged bird flapping its wings]

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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