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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English flikeren(to flutter), from Old English flicerian, flicorian(to flutter). Akin to Dutch flikkeren(to flutter).


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 W[illiam] Chambers, “chapter III”, in The Younger Set (Project Gutenberg; EBook #14852), New York, N.Y.: A. L. Burt Company, published 1 February 2005 (Project Gutenberg version), OCLC 4241346:
      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.
  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 2[edit]

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 also[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

flick +‎ -er


flicker (plural flickers)

  1. One who flicks.
Derived terms[edit]