c.1300, probably from O.N. flengja, of uncertain origin. The M.E. intransitive sense is preserved in phrase have a fling at "make a try." The noun sense of "period of indulgence on the eve of responsibilities" first attested 1827. Meaning "vigorous dance" (associated with the Scottish Highlands) is from 1806. An obsolete word for "streetwalker, harlot" was fling-stink (1679).