Fly in the ointment

fly

2 [flahy]
noun, plural flies.
1.
Also called true fly. any of numerous two-winged insects of the order Diptera, especially of the family Muscidae, as the common housefly.
2.
any of various winged insects, as the mayfly or firefly.
3.
Angling. a fishhook dressed with hair, feathers, silk, tinsel, etc., so as to resemble an insect or small fish, for use as a lure or bait.
4.
(initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Musca.
Idioms
5.
fly in the ointment, a detrimental factor; detraction: If there's one fly in the ointment, it's that there may not be the money to finish the job.

Origin:
before 950; Middle English flīe, Old English flēoge, flȳge; cognate with Middle Dutch vliege (Dutch vlieg), Old High German flioga (German Fliege); akin to fly1

flyless, adjective
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
fly1 (flaɪ)
 
vb , flies, flying, flew, flown
1.  (intr) (of birds, aircraft, etc) to move through the air in a controlled manner using aerodynamic forces
2.  to travel over (an area of land or sea) in an aircraft
3.  to operate (an aircraft or spacecraft)
4.  to float, flutter, or be displayed in the air or cause to float, etc, in this way: to fly a kite; they flew the flag
5.  to transport or be transported by or through the air by aircraft, wind, etc
6.  (intr) to move or be moved very quickly, forcibly, or suddenly: she came flying towards me; the door flew open
7.  (intr) to pass swiftly: time flies
8.  to escape from (an enemy, place, etc); flee: he flew the country
9.  (intr; may be foll by at or upon) to attack a person
10.  (intr) to have a sudden outburst: he flew into a rage again
11.  (intr) (of money, etc) to vanish rapidly
12.  (tr) falconry (of hawks) to fly at (quarry) in attack: peregrines fly rooks
13.  (tr) theatre to suspend (scenery) above the stage so that it may be lowered into view
14.  fly a kite
 a.  to procure money by an accommodation bill
 b.  to release information or take a step in order to test public opinion
15.  informal fly high
 a.  to have a high aim
 b.  to prosper or flourish
16.  fly in the face of See face
17.  informal fly off the handle to lose one's temper
18.  informal (US), (Canadian) fly the coop to leave suddenly
19.  informal (US), (Canadian) go fly a kite go away
20.  informal let fly
 a.  to lose one's temper (with a person): she really let fly at him
 b.  to shoot or throw (an object)
 
n , flies, flying, flew, flown, flies
21.  (often plural) Also called: fly front a closure that conceals a zip, buttons, or other fastening, by having one side overlapping, as on trousers
22.  Also called: fly sheet
 a.  a flap forming the entrance to a tent
 b.  a piece of canvas drawn over the ridgepole of a tent to form an outer roof
23.  a small air brake used to control the chiming of large clocks
24.  the horizontal weighted arm of a fly press
25.  a.  the outer edge of a flag
 b.  Compare hoist the distance from the outer edge of a flag to the staff
26.  (Brit) a light one-horse covered carriage formerly let out on hire
27.  (Austral), (NZ) an attempt: I'll give it a fly
28.  printing
 a.  a device for transferring printed sheets from the press to a flat pile
 b.  Also called: flyhand a person who collects and stacks printed matter from a printing press
 c.  a piece of paper folded once to make four pages, with printing only on the first page
29.  (plural) theatre the space above the stage out of view of the audience, used for storing scenery, etc
30.  rare the act of flying
 
[Old English flēogan; related to Old Frisian fliāga, Old High German fliogan, Old Norse fljūga]
 
'flyable1
 
adj

fly2 (flaɪ)
 
n , pl flies
1.  horsefly blowfly tsetse fly See also crane fly any dipterous insect, esp the housefly, characterized by active flight
2.  any of various similar but unrelated insects, such as the caddis fly, firefly, dragonfly, and chalcid fly
3.  angling dry fly See also wet fly a lure made from a fish-hook dressed with feathers, tinsel, etc, to resemble any of various flies or nymphs: used in fly-fishing
4.  (in southern Africa) an area that is infested with the tsetse fly
5.  slang (Austral) drink with the flies to drink alone
6.  fly in amber See amber
7.  informal fly in the ointment a slight flaw that detracts from value, completeness, or enjoyment
8.  fly on the wall a person who watches others, while not being noticed himself or herself
9.  informal there are no flies on him he is no fool
 
[Old English flēoge; related to Old Norse fluga Old High German flioga; see fly1]
 
'flyless2
 
adj

fly3 (flaɪ)
 
adj , flyer, flyest
1.  chiefly (Brit) knowing and sharp; smart
2.  chiefly (Scot) furtive or sneaky
 
n
3.  chiefly (Scot) on the fly in secret; sneakily
 
[C19: of uncertain origin]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

fly
O.E. fleoge, from P.Gmc. *fleugjon (cf. O.S. fleiga, O.N. fluga, M.Du. vlieghe, Ger. Fliege "fly); lit. "the flying (insect)" (cf. O.E. fleogende "flying"), from same source as fly(v.1). Originally "any winged insect" (hence butterfly, etc.); long used by farmers and gardeners for any insect parasite.
The O.E. plural in -n (cf. oxen) gradually normalized 13c.-15c. to -s. Slang adj. meaning "clever, alert, wide awake" first recorded 18c., perhaps from the notion of the insect being hard to catch (other theories, however, trace it to fledge or flash); 1990s use may be a revival or a reinvention. Fly on the wall "unseen observer" first recorded 1949. An O.E. word for "curtain" was fleonet "fly-net." Fly-swatter first attested 1917. Fly-fishing is from 1650s.

fly
"to soar through air," O.E. fleogan (class II strong verb; past tense fleag, pp. flogen), from W.Gmc. *fleuganan (cf. O.H.G. fliogan, O.N. flügja, M.Du. vlieghen, Ger. fliegen), from PIE *pleu- "flowing, floating" (cf. Lith. plaukiu "to swim"). Notion of "flapping as a wing does" led to noun sense
of "tent flap" (1810), which yielded (1844) "covering for buttons that close up a garment." Slang phrase fly off the handle "lose one's cool" dates from 1825. On the fly is 1851.

fly
"run away," O.E. fleon (see flee). Fleogan and fleon were often confused in O.E., too. Mod.Eng. distinguishes in preterite: flew/fled.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

fly (flī)
n.
Any of numerous two-winged insects of the order Diptera.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
fly   (flī)  Pronunciation Key 
Any of numerous insects of the order Diptera, having one pair of wings and large compound eyes. Flies include the houseflies, horseflies, and mosquitoes. See more at dipteran.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

fly in the ointment definition


A drawback, especially one that was not at first apparent: “Sharon's lack of experience turned out to be the fly in the ointment when she applied for the job.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Easton
Bible Dictionary

Fly definition


Heb. zebub, (Eccl. 10:1; Isa. 7:18). This fly was so grievous a pest that the Phoenicians invoked against it the aid of their god Baal-zebub (q.v.). The prophet Isaiah (7:18) alludes to some poisonous fly which was believed to be found on the confines of Egypt, and which would be called by the Lord. Poisonous flies exist in many parts of Africa, for instance, the different kinds of tsetse. Heb. 'arob, the name given to the insects sent as a plague on the land of Egypt (Ex. 8:21-31; Ps. 78:45; 105:31). The LXX. render this by a word which means the "dog-fly," the cynomuia. The Jewish commentators regarded the Hebrew word here as connected with the word _'arab_, which means "mingled;" and they accordingly supposed the plague to consist of a mixed multitude of animals, beasts, reptiles, and insects. But there is no doubt that "the _'arab_" denotes a single definite species. Some interpreters regard it as the Blatta orientalis, the cockroach, a species of beetle. These insects "inflict very painful bites with their jaws; gnaw and destroy clothes, household furniture, leather, and articles of every kind, and either consume or render unavailable all eatables."

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

fly in the ointment

A drawback or detrimental factor. For example, The new library is wonderful but there's a fly in the ointment: their catalog isn't complete yet. This term probably alludes to a biblical proverb (Ecclesiastes 10:1): "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour." [c. 1600]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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