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See also: Fluke



Etymology 1[edit]

Unknown, perhaps dialectal. It seems to have originally referred to a lucky shot at billiards. Possibly connected to sense 3, referring to whales' use of flukes to move rapidly.


fluke (plural flukes)

  1. A lucky or improbable occurrence, with the implication that the occurrence could not be repeated.
    The first goal was just a fluke.
    • 1913 October, Jack London, chapter VIII, in The Valley of the Moon, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, →OCLC:
      [] That's the first time in the history of Bierce's Cove that two men made that jump on the same sea. And all the risk was yours, coming last.”
      “It was a fluke,” Billy insisted.
    • 1920, Zane Grey, “The Rube”, in The Redheaded Outfield[1]:
      Three of the best hitters in the Eastern retired on nine strikes! That was no fluke.
    • 1930, Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison:
      "And I say," said Wimsey, "that it would be better for her to be hanged outright than to live and have everybody think her a murderess who got off by a fluke."
    • 1986, "Weird Al" Yankovic (lyrics and music), “Christmas at Ground Zero”, in Polka Party![2]:
      It's Christmas at ground zero / Now the missiles are on their way / What a crazy fluke / We're gonna get nuked / On this jolly holiday
    • 2017, BioWare, Mass Effect: Andromeda (Science Fiction), Redwood City: Electronic Arts, →OCLC, PC, scene: Garden:
      And before I forget... that was one amazing kiss, mister. Could have been a fluke, though. Guess we have to keep trying.
    • 2020 January 2, David Clough, “How InterCity came back from the brink”, in Rail, page 69:
      That this was not just a fluke was proved by a further profit the following year, albeit cut due to industrial action - jam at last!
  • Cantonese: 符碌 (fu6 luk11)


fluke (third-person singular simple present flukes, present participle fluking, simple past and past participle fluked)

  1. To obtain a successful outcome by pure chance.
    I fluked a pass in the multiple-choice exam.
  2. (snooker) To fortuitously pot a ball in an unintended way.
    He fluked the other red into the middle pocket, despite the double kiss.

Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]


From Old English flōc (flatfish), of Germanic origin, related to German flach (flat), Old Norse floke (flatfish), all ultimately from Proto-Germanic *flakaz.


fluke (plural fluke or flukes)

  1. A summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus)
  2. A trematode; a parasitic flatworm of the class Trematoda, related to tapeworms (class Cestoda).
    The man became infected with flukes after eating a meal of raw fish.
Usage notes[edit]
  • The unmarked plural fluke is used to refer to the fish; the marked plural flukes is used to refer to flatworms.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

Humpback whale fluke
anchor fluke (H)

Mid-16th century in the sense of “anchor blade”. Probably the same word as in etymology 2 above or else a related word for something flat (cf. Proto-Germanic *flakaz). A derivation from Middle Low German vlögel (wing), from Proto-Germanic *flugilaz, seems phonetically impossible. If anything, related vlōch, vlucht (flight”, both also “wing) or even *vlunke (modern Low German Flunk (wing, pinion)) are more plausible candidates. Note that the kind of whale's fin is called Fluke in contemporary German, but this is likely from English.


fluke (plural flukes)

  1. (nautical) Any of the triangular blades at the end of an anchor, designed to catch the ground.
    The fluke of the anchor was wedged between two outcroppings of rock and could not be dislodged.
    • 1904–1906, Joseph Conrad, chapter IV, in The Mirror of the Sea, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y., London: Harper & Brothers, published October 1906, →OCLC:
      The honest, rough piece of iron, so simple in appearance, has more parts than the human body has limbs: the ring, the stock, the crown, the flukes, the palms, the shank. All this, according to the journalist, is “cast” when a ship arriving at an anchorage is brought up.
  2. Either of the two lobes of a whale's or similar creature's tail.
    The dolphin had an open wound on the left fluke of its tail where the propeller had injured it.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, chapter 55, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC:
      But though this sculpture is half man and half whale, so as only to give the tail of the latter, yet that small section of him is all wrong. It looks more like the tapering tail of an anaconda, than the broad palms of the true whale's majestic flukes.
    • 1919, Christopher Morley, chapter IX, in The Haunted Bookshop[3], New York, N.Y.: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers, →OCLC:
      As Walter de la Mare writes, "How uncomprehendingly must an angel from heaven smile on a poor human sitting engrossed in a romance: angled upon his hams, motionless in his chair, spectacles on nose, his two feet as close together as the flukes of a merman's tail, only his strange eyes stirring in his time-worn face."
  3. A metal hook on the head of certain staff weapons (such as a bill), made in various forms depending on function, whether used for grappling or to penetrate armour when swung at an opponent.
    The polearm had a wide, sharpened fluke attached to the central point.
  4. In general, a winglike formation on a central piece.
    After casting the bronze statue, we filed down the flukes and spurs from the molding process.
  5. Waste cotton.
Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Further reading[edit]