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From Old English flēon, from Proto-Germanic *fleuhaną, from Proto-Indo-European *plewk-, *plew- (to fly, flow, run).

Cognate with Dutch vlieden, German fliehen, Icelandic flýja, Swedish fly, Gothic 𐌸𐌻𐌹𐌿𐌷𐌰𐌽 (þliuhan). Within English, related to fly and more distantly to flow.



flee (third-person singular simple present flees, present participle fleeing, simple past and past participle fled)

  1. (intransitive) To run away; to escape.
    The prisoner tried to flee, but was caught by the guards.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Proverbs 28:1:
      The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bolde as a lyon.
    • 1922, Michael Arlen, “Ep./4/2”, in “Piracy”: A Romantic Chronicle of These Days:
      As they turned into Hertford Street they startled a robin from the poet's head on a barren fountain, and he fled away with a cameo note.
    • 1940, Rosetta E. Clarkson, Green Enchantments: The Magic Spell of Gardens, The Macmillan Company, page 254:
      When, however, the plant spirits were not strong enough in themselves, then the family called in the Medicine Man. He appeared, a "monster of so frightful mien", with noise making apparatus which produced such a terrifying din that even the hardiest demon was likely to flee.
  2. (transitive) To escape from.
    Many people fled the country as war loomed.
    Thousands of people moved northward trying to flee the drought.
    • 1962 October, “Talking of Trains: Passed to you, Mr. Macmillan”, in Modern Railways, page 220:
      The Government, having lit the fuse, is not going to be allowed to flee the explosion.
  3. (intransitive) To disappear quickly; to vanish.
    Ethereal products flee once freely exposed to air.

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Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of fle


Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English flye, from Old English flȳġe, flēoge, from Proto-Germanic *fleugǭ. Compare English fly, Dutch vlieg, German Fliege.



  1. fly