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See also: Quail




  • IPA(key): /ˈkweɪl/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪl

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English quaylen, from Middle Dutch queilen, quēlen, from Old Dutch *quelan, from Proto-Germanic *kwelaną (to suffer), from Proto-Indo-European *gʷelH- (to sting, pierce). Doublet of queal.

Alternative formsEdit


quail (third-person singular simple present quails, present participle quailing, simple past and past participle quailed)

  1. (intransitive) to waste away; to fade, wither [from 15th c.]
  2. (transitive, now rare) to frighten, daunt (someone) [from 16th c.]
  3. (intransitive) to lose heart or courage; to be daunted, fearful [from 16th c.]
    • 1848, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Chapter 21:
      Though George had stopped in his sentence, yet, his blood being up, he was not to be cowed by all the generations of Osborne; rallying instantly, he replied to the bullying look of his father, with another so indicative of resolution and defiance that the elder man quailed in his turn, and looked away.
    • 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., OCLC 86121123:
      Mr. Utterson had already quailed at the name of Hyde; but when the stick was laid before him, he could doubt no longer; broken and battered as it was, he recognized it for one that he had himself presented many years before to Henry Jekyll.
    • 1904, Seymour S. Tibbals, The Puritans or The Captain of Plymouth: A Comic Opera in Three Acts, [Franklin, Oh.]: Seymour S. Tibbals, OCLC 20218813, Act II, scene I, page 13:
      Stouter hearts than a woman's have quailed in this terrible winter. Yours is tender and trusting, and needs a stronger one to lean on; so I have come to you now, with an offer of marriage.
    • 1949, George Orwell, 1984: A Novel, London: Secker & Warburg, OCLC 7158857, page 25:
      His heart quailed before the enormous pyramidal shape.
    • 2016 February 20, “Obituary: Antonin Scalia: Always right”, in The Economist[1]:
      His colleagues quailed when, in 1986, he first sat on the court as a brash 50-year-old whose experience had been mostly as a combative government lawyer: a justice who, in that sanctum of columns and deep judicial silence, was suddenly firing questions like grapeshot.
  4. (intransitive) of courage, faith, etc.: to slacken, give way [from 16th c.]
    • 1868, Anthony Trollope, He Knew He Was Right X:
      ‘Sir, if you think your name is shamed by me, we had better part,’ said Mrs Trevelyan, rising from her chair, and confronting him with a look before which his own almost quailed.

Etymology 2Edit

English Wikipedia has an article on:
The common quail (Coturnix coturnix)

From Middle English quayle, quaile, quaille, from Anglo-Norman quaille, from Old Dutch *kwakila, Frankish *kwakla (compare West Flemish kwakkel), blend of *kwak (quack) and Proto-Germanic *hwahtilō (quail) (compare dialectal Dutch wachtel, German Wachtel), from a diminutive of Proto-Indo-European *kʷoḱt- (quail) (compare Latin coturnīx, cocturnīx, Lithuanian vaštaka, Sanskrit चातक (cātaka, pied cuckoo)), metathesis of *wortokʷ- (quail) (compare Dutch kwartel, Greek ορτύκι (ortýki), Persian ورتیج(vartij’), Sanskrit वर्तका (vartaka)).


quail (plural quail or quails)

  1. Any of various small game birds of the genera Coturnix, Anurophasis or Perdicula in the Old World family Phasianidae or of the New World family Odontophoridae.
  2. (uncountable) The meat from this bird eaten as food.
  3. (obsolete) A prostitute, so called because the quail was thought to be a very amorous bird.
Derived termsEdit

See alsoEdit

Etymology 3Edit

From Middle English quaylen, qwaylen, from Old French coaillier, from Latin coagulare. See coagulate.


quail (third-person singular simple present quails, present participle quailing, simple past and past participle quailed)

  1. To curdle or coagulate, as milk does.

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for quail in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)