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wail

[weyl] /weɪl/
verb (used without object)
1.
to utter a prolonged, inarticulate, mournful cry, usually high-pitched or clear-sounding, as in grief or suffering:
to wail with pain.
2.
to make mournful sounds, as music or the wind.
3.
to lament or mourn bitterly.
4.
Jazz. to perform exceptionally well.
5.
Slang. to express emotion musically or verbally in an exciting, satisfying way.
verb (used with object)
6.
to express deep sorrow for; mourn; lament; bewail:
to wail the dead; to wail one's fate.
7.
to express in wailing; cry or say in lamentation:
to wail one's grief.
noun
8.
the act of wailing.
9.
a wailing cry, as of grief, pain, or despair.
10.
any similar mournful sound:
the wail of an old tune.
Origin
1300-1350
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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for wail
  • She sounds an urgent wail that echoes loudly off the empty stoops.
  • Other animals may whimper, moan and wail, but none sheds tears of emotion--not even our closest primate cousins.
  • The banshee wail of an ambulance, the song of its siren, is the stuff of awful visions.
  • Otherwise the wail of the loons is at risk in the northern wilderness.
  • Go on, lift up the neck of the guitar and press on the whammy bar to really wail on an extended note.
  • Wall space is ample for this number of frames, so that the wail of the skied is not heard in the land.
  • Not far away other earthquake survivors wail in agony in a makeshift hospital.
  • Then came the sickening sound of a wild tumble, the clatter of hooves, a terrified wail.
  • And there is the startled jolt of adrenaline in response to the roar of a leopard--or the wail of an alarm.
  • But you can always remember the good old days and wail.
British Dictionary definitions for wail

wail

/weɪl/
verb
1.
(intransitive) to utter a prolonged high-pitched cry, as of grief or misery
2.
(intransitive) to make a sound resembling such a cry the wind wailed in the trees
3.
(transitive) to lament, esp with mournful sounds
noun
4.
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 wail
wail
early 14c., from O.N. væla "to lament," from "woe" (see woe). Of jazz musicians, "to play very well," attested from 1955, Amer.Eng. slang (wailing "excellent" is attested from 1954). The noun is recorded from c.1400.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for wail

wail

verb
  1. To play jazz well and feelingly: We were wailing, but nobody had a tape machine (1930s+ Jazz musicians)
  2. (also whale) To do very well; perform well (1950s+ College students fr cool talk fr jazz musicians)

[fr the notion of a well-performed blues number, with its melodious lamentations]


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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7
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