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See also: Fillip



From Middle English filippen, philippe (to flick or snap a finger against the thumb);[1] further origin uncertain, but probably imitative.[2] See flip. It is not clear whether the verb is derived from the noun, or vice versa.[2][3]



fillip (plural fillips)

  1. (archaic) The action of holding the tip of a finger against the thumb and then releasing it with a snap; a flick.
    • 1724, [Bernard] Nieuwentyt, “Contemplation XXVI. Of Certain Laws of Nature.”, in John Chamberlayne, transl., The Religious Philosopher: Or, The Right Use of Contemplating the Works of the Creator. [] In Two Volumes. [] Translated from the Low-Dutch. [], 3rd edition, London: Printed for J. Senex, []; E. Taylor, []; W. and J. Innys, []; and J. Osborne, [], →OCLC, section XV (The First Motion Proves a God; []), page 484:
      And let him ſuppoſe, that if a Man in the beginning of the World, or four or five hundred Years ago, had laid a little round Marble upon a Table, and to put the ſame in Motion, had given it a Fillip with his Finger; the ſaid Marble, according to the abovemention'd Law of Nature, would (if no other Force had oppos'd its Motion) have moved to this very Minute with the ſame Velocity in a Right-Line, and without ceaſing, would have continued to run in the ſame Line ſuch a Length, as no Man could determine the end of.
  2. A sharp strike or tap made using this action, or (by extension) by other means.
    • 1543, Thomas Becon [i.e., Thomas Beccon], “An Invective against the Most Wicked and Detestable Vice of Swearing”, in Writings of the Rev. Thomas Becon, [] (British Reformers; 10), London: Printed [by William Clowes] for the Religious Tract Society, and sold at the depository, []; also by J. Nisbet, [], published 1831, →OCLC, page 129:
      The blasphemy done to a mortal man is punished with the sword, and shall the blasphemy done to God escape think you with a fillip in the forehead, or with the knock of a little wooden betel, as it is begun to be punished in certain men's houses now of late? Nay, verily. It is no fillip matter except we will admit such a fillip as shall fillip them down into the bottom of hell-fire. God is no puppet, nor a babe. It is not a fillip that can wipe away the blasphemy of his most blessed name, before his high throne and glorious majesty.
    • 1876, Molière [pseudonym; Jean-Baptiste Poquelin], “The Imaginary Invalid”, in Henri van Laun, transl., The Dramatic Works of Molière: Rendered into English [], volume VI, Edinburgh: William Paterson, →OCLC, act II, scene viii, page 263:
      Arch[ers]. In default of six pistoles, / Choose then without ado / To receive thirty fillips, / Or twelve blows with the stick. / Punch. If it must be, and that I must pass through that, I choose the fillips.
  3. (by extension) Something unimportant, a trifle; also, the brief time it takes to flick one's finger (see noun sense 1); a jiffy.
    • 1821, Lord Byron, “Sardanapalus”, in Sardanapalus, a Tragedy; The Two Foscari, a Tragedy; Cain, a Mystery, London: John Murray, [], →OCLC, Act I, scene ii, page 20:
      Eat, drink and love; the rest's not worth a fillip.
    • 1880, William Elliot Griffis, Japanese Fairy World. Stories from the Wonder-lore of Japan, Schenectady, N.Y.: James H. Barhyte, →OCLC, pages 276–277:
      Now among the treasures in the palace of the Dragon King of the World Under the Sea were two jewels having wondrous power over the tides. [...] Whoever owned them had the power to make the tides instantly rise or fall at his word, to make the dry land appear, or the sea overwhelm it, in the fillip of a finger.
  4. (by extension) Something that excites or stimulates.
    This measure gave a fillip to the housing market.
    The athlete’s victory provided a much-needed fillip for national pride.
    • 1824, Geoffrey Crayon [pseudonym; Washington Irving], “The Club of Queer Fellows”, in Tales of a Traveller, part 2 (Buckthorne and His Friends), Philadelphia, Pa.: H[enry] C[harles] Carey & I[saac] Lea, [], →OCLC, page 22:
      He sat at the head of the table with his hat on, and an eye beaming even more luminously than his nose. He had a quiz and a fillip for every one, and a good thing on every occasion.
    • 1867 May 4, “Changes and Fillips”, in William, Robert Chambers, editors, Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Art, number 175 (4th series), London, Edinburgh: Printed and published by W. & R. Chambers [], →OCLC, page 274, column 1:
      Changes, however, such as we all require, must by no means be confused with fillips—artificial stimulants, which are bad for everybody. These last may be easily recognised and known for what they are, by their suddenness and violence, as well as by the temporary character of their effects.
    • 1903 July 10, “The Late Mr. James M. Gale”, in W[illiam] H[enry] Maw, J[ames] Dredge [Jr.], editors, Engineering: An Illustrated Weekly Journal, volume LXXVI, London: Offices for advertisements and publication—35 & 36, Bedford Street, Strand, W.C., →ISSN, →OCLC, page 62, column 1:
      Some branches [of the Wolverhampton iron and steel trade] are quiet, a few are slack, but generally they are, for the most part, well employed. The outlook cannot be so well gauged. It only requires a bit of a spurt to give a fillip to several branches, and these would stimulate the rest.
    • 2011 May 25, Justin Chang, “The Day He Arrives [film review]”, in Variety[1], →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 28 June 2017:
      The outline could apply to most of the self-effacing, increasingly inward-looking comedies written and directed by Hong Sang-soo, and it certainly describes "The Day He Arrives," an agreeably meandering exercise that brings some clever French New Wave fillips and structural repetitions to Hong's characteristically boozy party.
    • 2018 July 28, Katharine Murphy, “Super Saturday elections: Shorten passes test as Labor wins ‘four from four’”, in Katharine Viner, editor, The Guardian[2], London: Guardian News & Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 3 July 2019:
      Labor has emerged victorious in critical byelection contests in Tasmania and Queensland in a significant fillip for the federal leader, Bill Shorten, boosting its primary vote in Longman and harvesting the lion’s share of preferences in Braddon.



fillip (third-person singular simple present fillips, present participle filliping or (archaic) fillipping, simple past and past participle filliped or (archaic) fillipped)

  1. (transitive) To strike, project, or propel with a fillip (that is, a finger released quickly after being pressed against the thumb); to flick.
    • c. 1602 (date written), William Shakespeare, The Famous Historie of Troylus and Cresseid. [] (First Quarto), London: [] G[eorge] Eld for R[ichard] Bonian and H[enry] Walley, [], published 1609, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene v]:
      Mene[laus]. An odde man Lady, euery man is odde. / Creſ[ſida]. No Paris is not, for you know tis true, / That you are odde and he is euen with you. / Mene. You fillip me a'th head.
    • 1631, Francis [Bacon], “II. Century. [Experiments in Consort Touching Musicke.]”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. [], 3rd edition, London: [] William Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee [], paragraph 102, page 13, →OCLC:
      The Sounds that produce Tones, are euer from ſuch Bodies, as are in their Parts and Pores Equall; As well as the Sounds themſelues are Equall; And ſuch as are the Percuſſions of Metall, as in Bels; Of Glaſſe, as in the Fillipping of a Drinking Glaſſe; [...]
    • 1778, Francis Hargrave, “Mawgridge’s Case in the Queen’s-Bench, Term. Hill.: 5 Anne Reginæ”, in A Complete Collection of State-trials, and Proceedings for High-treason, and Other Crimes and Misdemeanours; [], 4th edition, volume IX, London: Printed by T. Wright, []; for C. Bathurst, Wilson and Nicholl, [et al.]; and sold by G. Kearsley, [], →OCLC, column 65:
      [...] If one Man upon angry Words ſhall make an Aſſault upon another, either by pulling him by the Noſe, or filliping upon the Forehead, and that he is ſo aſſaulted ſhall draw his Sword, and immediately run the other through, that is but Manſlaughter; for the Peace is broken by the Perſon killed, and with an Indignity to him that received the Aſſault.
    • 1808 July, “[Francis] Douce’s Illustrations of Shakespeare. [Continued.]”, in C. Taylor, editor, The Literary Panorama. Being a Review of Books, Magazine of Varieties, and Annual Register; [...], volume IV, London: Printed by Cox, Son, and Baylis, [], for C. Taylor, [], published September 1808, →OCLC, column 676:
      Quail combats were well known among the ancients, especially at Athens. [...] Another practice was to produce one of these birds, which being first smitten or filliped with the middle finger, a feather was then plucked from its head: if the quail bore this operation without flinching, his master gained the stake, but lost it if he ran away.
    • 1844 October, Edgar Allan Poe, “The Angel of the Odd. An Extravaganza.”, in The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe: [] In Four Volumes, volume IV (Arthur Gordon Pym, &c.), New York, N.Y.: Redfield [], published 1856, page 282:
      He talked on, therefore, at great length, while I merely leaned back in my chair with my eyes shut, and amused myself with munching raisins and filliping the stems about the room.
  2. (transitive, by extension) To project quickly; to snap.
    • 1697, John Denham, “Directions to a Painter”, in Poems on Affairs of State: From the Time of Oliver Cromwell, to the Abdication of K. James the Second. [], [London: s.n.], →OCLC, page 38:
      Yet he obſerv'd how ſtill his Iron Balls / Recoyl'd in vain againſt our Oaken Walls. / How the hard Pellets fell away as dead, / By our inchanted Timber fillipped.
    • 1871, Edward B[urnett] Tylor, “The Development of Culture”, in Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art, and Custom. [...] In Two Volumes, volume I, London: John Murray, [], →OCLC, page 61:
      The use of the elastic switch to fillip small missiles with, and the remarkable elastic darts of the Pelew Islands, bent and made to fly by their own spring, indicate inventions which may have led to that of the bow, while the arrow is a miniature form of the javelin.
  3. (transitive, by extension) To strike or tap smartly.
    • 1839, A. M., “Part II”, in A Challenge to Phrenologists; or, Phrenology Tested by Reason and Facts, London: James S. Hodson, [], →OCLC, page 69:
      [I]t was almost, if not quite as fine in Napoleon, hitting the Frenchmen between wind and water, filliping their chivalry on the one hand, by absolutely disbelieving that so many would go about to kill one man, and catching their admiration of courage on the other, by affecting to consider them as too few to intimidate him: [...]
    • 1852, Edward Ballard, “Percussion”, in The Physical Diagnosis of Diseases of the Abdomen, London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberley, [], →OCLC, part I (Method and General Results of Physical Examination), paragraph 49, pages 41–42:
      The most convenient pleximeter is the middle finger of the left hand, smoothly applied by its palmar surface on the part to be percussed. [...] The stroke is made, in most cases, with the tips of the two or three first fingers brought to a level, or with only a single finger. [...] Percussion may be strong or gentle; in the latter case, the stroke may be made by filliping gently upon the back of a single finger, or upon the nail. By gentle percussion, a sound is elicited whose character will depend on the condition of the wall, and of the parts immediately beneath it; whereas, when it is forcible, the deeper tissues will modify the result.
    • 1876, Thomas Hardy, “The Lodge, continued—The Copse behind”, in The Hand of Ethelberta: A Comedy in Chapters [], volume I, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], →OCLC, page 148:
      The boughs were so tangled that in following the obstructed track it became necessary to screen his face with his hands to escape the risk of having his eyes filliped out by the twigs that impeded his progress.
    • 1981, Saxton T[emple] Pope, “Ishi’s Death”, in Robert F[leming] Heizer, Theodora Kroeber, editors, Ishi the Last Yahi: A Documentary History, 1st paperback edition, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Calif., London: University of California Press, →ISBN, page 228:
      He [Ishi] combed and brushed his hair daily. He washed it frequently, drying it by filliping it and beating it with a small stick as it hung in the sunlight.
  4. (transitive, figuratively) To drive as if by a fillip (noun sense 1); to excite, stimulate, whet.
    The spicy aroma filliped my appetite.
  5. (transitive, intransitive) To make a fillip (noun sense 1) (with the fingers).
    • 1808, W[illiam] Giplin, “[Miscellaneous Essays.] On Duelling. [From Dialogues on Various Subjects, by the late Rev. W. Gilpin, A.M.]”, in Edmund Burke, editor, The Annual Register, or A View of the History, Politics, and Literature, new edition, volume L, London: Printed for Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy; [et al.], published 1820, →OCLC, page 188, column 1:
      As they were drinking after dinner, the prince jocosely dipped his finger in a glass of wine, and fillipped it into Oglethorpe's face.
    • 1844 June, “The Idle Family: An Eastern Apologue. Translated from the Arabic, [...]”, in A. T. R., transl., Hood’s Magazine and Comic Miscellany, volume I, number VI, London: Published for the proprietors, by H. Renshaw, [], →OCLC, page 600:
      "Oh! we have done very, very wrong in giving our daughter in marriage to you, for if I but fillip my finger, and the fillip should fall on her baby's eye, it will be blind, and there will be our poor little grandchild with only one eye." "But where is the child?" said the Sultan. "It may come, you know;" answered Gertrude. "You are all foolish," cried the Sultan, angrily; "I have not yet married your daughter, and yet you are weeping for the fate of her child; Isabella is very beautiful, but far too foolish for my wife; good bye, I will have nothing to say to any of you."

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  1. ^ filippen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 23 July 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 fillip, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1896; “fillip, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ fillip, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1896; “fillip, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.