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See also: Flake and flakë


Flakes (thin layers) on the top of a block of limestone
A flake (prehistoric tool)


  • (UK) IPA(key): /fleɪk/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: flake
  • Rhymes: -eɪk

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English flake (a flake of snow), from Old English *flacca and/or Old Norse flak (loose or torn piece) (compare Old Norse flakna (flake or chip)), from Proto-Germanic *flaką (something flat), from Proto-Indo-European *pleh₂- (flat, broad, plain). Cognate with Norwegian flak (slice, sliver, literally piece torn off), Swedish flak (a thin slice), Danish flage (flake), German Flocke (flake), Dutch vlak (smooth surface, plain) and vlok (flake), Latin plaga (flat surface, district, region). Doublet of plage.


flake (plural flakes)

  1. A loose filmy mass or a thin chiplike layer of anything
    There were a few flakes of paint on the floor from when we were painting the walls.
    flakes of dandruff
  2. A scale of a fish or similar animal
  3. (archaeology) A prehistoric tool chipped out of stone.
  4. (informal) A person who is impractical, flighty, unreliable, or inconsistent; especially with maintaining a living.
    She makes pleasant conversation, but she's kind of a flake when it comes time for action.
  5. A carnation with only two colours in the flower, the petals having large stripes.
  6. A flat turn or tier of rope.
    • 1634, Nathaniel Boteler, Boteler's Dialogues:
      Admiral: What mean you by flakes?
      Captain: They are only those several circles or rounds of the roapes or cables, that are quoiled up round.
    • 1944, Clifford W. Ashley, The Ashley Book of Knots, Doubleday, pages 516-517:
      A flake is the sailor's term for a turn in an ordinary coil, or for a complete tier in a flat coil, as a French or Flemish flake. The current dictionary form of the word is fake, a word that I have never heard used with this meaning.
      A Flemish flake is a spiral coil of one layer only.
Derived terms[edit]


flake (third-person singular simple present flakes, present participle flaking, simple past and past participle flaked)

  1. To break or chip off in a flake.
    The paint flaked off after only a year.
  2. (colloquial) To prove unreliable or impractical; to abandon or desert, to fail to follow through.
    He said he'd come and help, but he flaked.
  3. (technical) To store an item such as rope or sail in layers
    The line is flaked into the container for easy attachment and deployment.
  4. (Ireland, slang) To hit (another person).
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

A name given to dogfish to improve its marketability as a food, perhaps from etymology 1.


flake (uncountable)

  1. (Britain) Dogfish.
  2. (Australia) The meat of the gummy shark.
    • 1999, R. Shotton, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Case studies of the management of elasmobranch fisheries, Part 1, page 746,
      Larger shark received about 10%/kg less than those in the 4-6 kg range. Most of the Victorian landed product is wholesaled as carcasses on the Melbourne Fish Market where it is sold to fish and chip shops, the retail sector and through restaurants as ‘flake’.
    • 2007, Archie Gerzee, WOW! Tales of a Larrikin Adventurer[1], page 141:
      The local fish shop sold a bit of flake (shark) but most people were too spoiled to eat shark. The main item on the Kiwi table was still snapper, and there was plenty of them, caught by the Kiwis themselves, so no shortage whatsoever.
    • 2007, Lyall Robert Ford, 101 ways to Improve Your Health[2], page 45:
      Until recently, deep-sea fish were considered to have insignificant levels of mercury but even these now contain higher levels than they used to, so you should also avoid the big fish like tuna, swordfish, and flake (shark) that are highest up the food chain.

Etymology 3[edit]

Compare Icelandic flaki?, fleki?, Danish flage, Dutch vlaak.


flake (plural flakes)

  1. (Britain, dialect) A paling; a hurdle.
  2. A platform of hurdles, or small sticks made fast or interwoven, supported by stanchions, for drying codfish and other things.
    • (Can we date this quote?) English Husbandman
      You shall also, after they be ripe, neither suffer them to have straw nor fern under them, but lay them either upon some smooth table, boards, or flakes of wands, and they will last the longer.
  3. (nautical) A small stage hung over a vessel's side, for workmen to stand on while calking, etc.
  4. (nautical) Alternative form of fake (turn or coil of cable or hawser)
    • (Can we date this quote?) Frank T. Bullen, The Cruise of the Cachalot: The Story of a New Bedford Whaler
      Flake after flake ran out of the tubs, until we were compelled to hand the end of our line to the second mate to splice his own on to.