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Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English flikeren (to flutter), from Old English flicerian, flicorian (to flutter). Akin to Saterland Frisian flikkerje (to flicker), West Frisian flikkerje (to flicker), Dutch flikkeren (to flicker, flutter), German Low German flickern (to light up, flash, flicker). Compare Old English flacor (flickering, fluttering), German flackern (to flicker, flutter), Old English flēoġan (to fly).


flicker (plural flickers)

  1. An unsteady flash of light.
  2. A short moment.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 8, in The China Governess[1]:
      It was a casual sneer, obviously one of a long line. There was hatred behind it, but of a quiet, chronic type, nothing new or unduly virulent, and he was taken aback by the flicker of amazed incredulity that passed over the younger man's ravaged face.


flicker (third-person singular simple present flickers, present participle flickering, simple past and past participle flickered)

  1. (intransitive) To burn or shine unsteadily. To burn or shine with a wavering light.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Alfred Tennyson
      The shadows flicker to and fro.
    • 1907, Robert William Chambers, chapter III, in The Younger Set (Project Gutenberg; EBook #14852), New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, published 1 February 2005 (Project Gutenberg version), OCLC 24962326:
      Long after his cigar burnt bitter, he sat with eyes fixed on the blaze. When the flames at last began to flicker and subside, his lids fluttered, then drooped; but he had lost all reckoning of time when he opened them again to find Miss Erroll in furs and ball-gown kneeling on the hearth and heaping kindling on the coals, [].
  2. (intransitive) To keep going on and off; to appear and disappear for short moments; to flutter.
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet, Ch.3:
      There I lay on one side with a thin and rotten plank between the dead man and me, dazed with the blow to my head, and breathing hard; while the glow of torches as they came down the passage reddened and flickered on the roof above.
    • 1908, Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
      The ruddy brick floor smiled up at the smoky ceiling; the oaken settles, shiny with long wear, exchanged cheerful glances with each other; plates on the dresser grinned at pots on the shelf, and the merry firelight flickered and played over everything without distinction.
    • 1915, T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock":
      I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker ...
    • 2017 April 6, Samira Shackle, “On the frontline with Karachi’s ambulance drivers”, in the Guardian[2]:
      In a city where media companies and hospitals have armed guards, this accessibility is unusual. Inside, drivers sit and chat in between shifts, the overhead fan whirring and causing the dim electric light to flicker over their faces.
  3. To flutter; to flap the wings without flying.
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Dryden
      And flickering on her nest made short essays to sing.

Etymology 2Edit

1808, American English, probably echoic of the bird's call, or from the white spotted plumage which appears to flicker.


flicker (plural flickers)

  1. (US) A certain type of small woodpecker, especially of the genus Colaptes.
See alsoEdit

Etymology 3Edit

flick +‎ -er


flicker (plural flickers)

  1. One who flicks.
Derived termsEdit