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[flap] /flæp/
verb (used without object), flapped, flapping.
to swing or sway back and forth loosely, especially with noise:
A loose shutter flapped outside the window.
to move up and down, as wings; flap the wings, or make similar movements.
to strike a blow with something broad and flexible.
Slang. to become excited or confused, especially under stress:
a seasoned diplomat who doesn't flap easily.
verb (used with object), flapped, flapping.
to move (wings, arms, etc.) up and down.
to cause to swing or sway loosely, especially with noise.
to strike with something broad and flat.
to toss, fold, shut, etc., smartly, roughly, or noisily.
Phonetics. to pronounce (a sound) with articulation resembling that of a flap:
The British often flap their r's.
something flat and broad that is attached at one side only and hangs loosely or covers an opening:
the flap of an envelope; the flap of a pocket.
either of the two segments of a book jacket folding under the book's front and back covers.
one leaf of a folding door, shutter, or the like.
a flapping motion.
the noise produced by something that flaps.
a blow given with something broad and flat.
  1. a state of nervous excitement, commotion, or disorganization.
  2. an emergency situation.
  3. scandal; trouble.
Surgery. a portion of skin or flesh that is partially separated from the body and may subsequently be transposed by grafting.
Aeronautics. a movable surface used for increasing the lift or drag of an airplane.
  1. a rapid flip of the tongue tip against the upper teeth or alveolar ridge, as in the r -sound in a common British pronunciation of very, or the t -sound in the common American pronunciation of water.
  2. a trill.
  3. a flipping out of the lower lip from a position of pressure against the upper teeth so as to produce an audible pop, as in emphatic utterances containing f -sounds or v -sounds.
Building Trades.
  1. Also called backflap hinge, flap hinge. a hinge having a strap or plate for screwing to the face of a door, shutter, or the like.
  2. one leaf of a hinge.
Origin of flap
1275-1325; Middle English flappe a blow, slap, flappen to hit, slap; compare Dutch flap, flappen
Related forms
flapless, adjective
unflapping, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for flapping
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • A great bird rose screaming from a tangle of vines; its heavy, flapping wings flashed red against the pale trees.

  • The sails had fallen off and they were flapping and thumping and clapping in the wind.

  • She paused for a moment, for Mr. Pindar was waving his arms and flapping his cloak in fervid assent.

    Mrs. Tree's Will Laura E. Richards
  • The cabman had put up his torch and was flapping his arms under his armpits.

    A Son of Hagar Sir Hall Caine
  • Slowly it rolled along behind the shadow of the dark, flapping pall.

    Ernest Linwood Caroline Lee Hentz
  • Roger thought of his torn flag, flapping in the wind on the top of the flagpole.

  • It was difficult to hear anything else distinctly for the noise made by the flapping of the tent and the creaking of its supports.

    Frank Oldfield T.P. Wilson
  • Yes, there was a flapping and a struggle—a big bird, it must be, labouring in the snow.

    Wintry Peacock D. H. Lawrence
  • Suddenly there was a flapping of wings, and the white grouse perched on the dragon's head and said: "Can I be of any assistance?"

    The Book of Dragons Edith Nesbit
British Dictionary definitions for flapping


verb flaps, flapping, flapped
to move (wings or arms) up and down, esp in or as if in flying, or (of wings or arms) to move in this way
to move or cause to move noisily back and forth or up and down: the curtains flapped in the breeze
(intransitive) (informal) to become agitated or flustered; panic
to deal (a person or thing) a blow with a broad flexible object
(transitive) sometimes foll by down. to toss, fling, slam, etc, abruptly or noisily
(transitive) (phonetics) to pronounce (an (r) sound) by allowing the tongue to give a single light tap against the alveolar ridge or uvula
the action, motion, or noise made by flapping: with one flap of its wings the bird was off
a piece of material, etc, attached at one edge and usually used to cover an opening, as on a tent, envelope, or pocket
a blow dealt with a flat object; slap
a movable surface fixed to the trailing edge of an aircraft wing that increases lift during takeoff and drag during landing
(surgery) a piece of tissue partially connected to the body, either following an amputation or to be used as a graft
(informal) a state of panic, distress, or agitation
(phonetics) an (r) produced by allowing the tongue to give a single light tap against the alveolar ridge or uvula
Word Origin
C14: probably of imitative origin
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 flapping



mid-14c., flappe "a blow, slap," probably imitative of the sound of striking. Meaning "something that hangs down" is first recorded 1520s. Sense of "motion or noise like a bird's wing" is 1774; meaning "disturbance, noisy tumult" is 1916, British slang.


early 14c., "dash about, shake;" later "strike, hit;" see flap (n.). Meaning "to swing loosely" is from 1520s. Related: Flapped; flapping.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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flapping in Medicine

flap (flāp)
Tissue used in surgical grafting that is only partially detached from its donor site so that it continues to be nourished during transfer to the recipient site.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for flapping



  1. Disturbance; tumult; fuss: Law was one direction open to me with the least amount of flap (1916+ British)
  2. A fight between street gangs; rumble (1950s+ Street gang)
  3. A white person: I wouldn't give a fuck what you or the flap or anybody thought 'bout it (1990s+ Black street gang)


To become flustered; lose one's composure: I've seen him under hostile pressure before. He doesn't flap and he doesn't become a doormat (1920s+)

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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