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From Middle English floteren, from Old English floterian, flotorian (to float about, flutter), from Proto-Germanic *flutrōną, frequentative of Proto-Germanic *flutōną (to float), equivalent to float +‎ -er (frequentative suffix). Cognate with Low German fluttern, fluddern (to flutter), German flittern, Dutch fladderen; also Albanian flutur (butterfly). More at float.



flutter (third-person singular simple present flutters, present participle fluttering, simple past and past participle fluttered)

  1. (intransitive) To flap or wave quickly but irregularly.
    flags fluttering in the wind
    • 1907 August, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, “Under the Ashes”, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, →OCLC, page 112:
      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) Of a winged animal: to flap the wings without flying; to fly with a light flapping of the wings.
  3. (intransitive, aerodynamics) To undergo divergent oscillations (potentially to the point of causing structural failure) due to a positive feedback loop between elastic deformation and aerodynamic forces.
  4. (transitive) To cause something to flap.
    A bird flutters its wings.
  5. (transitive) To drive into disorder; to throw into confusion.
    • c. 1608–1609 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedy of Coriolanus”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act V, scene vi], page 30:
      If you haue vvrit your Annales true, 'tis there, / That like an Eagle in a Doue-cote, I / Flatter'd[sic – meaning Flutter'd] your Volcians in Corioles.
    • 1869 May, Anthony Trollope, “The Honourable Mr. Glacock”, in He Knew He Was Right, volume I, London: Strahan and Company, [], →OCLC, page 104:
      There was a clearness of expression in this, and a downright surrender of himself, which so flattered her and so fluttered her that she was almost reduced to the giving of herself up because she could not reply to such an appeal in language less courteous than that of agreement
  6. (intransitive) To be in a state of agitation or uncertainty.
  7. (intransitive, obsolete) To be frivolous.
  8. (espionage, slang) To subject to a lie detector test.
    • 1978, Edward Jay Epstein, Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald, page 38:
      This was the first time that Nosenko had been subjected to a lie detector — or what the CIA called fluttering. The Soviet Union did not use such devices for interrogation.
    • 2002, Paul Eddy, Flint’s Law, page 90:
      "Anyway, she cracked and we fluttered her and—" / "Fluttered her?" / "Sorry, gave her a polygraph, a lie detector test. And she passed, more or less, []

Derived terms[edit]



English Wikipedia has an article on:

flutter (countable and uncountable, plural flutters)

  1. The act of fluttering; quick and irregular motion.
    the flutter of a fan
  2. A state of agitation.
    • 1733, [Alexander Pope], An Essay on Man. [], (please specify |epistle=I to IV), London: Printed for J[ohn] Wilford, [], →OCLC:
      flutter of spirits
    • 1900, Henry James, The Soft Side The Third Person Chapter 3
      Their visitor was an issue - at least to the imagination, and they arrived finally, under provocation, at intensities of flutter in which they felt themselves so compromised by his hoverings that they could only consider with relief the fact of nobody's knowing.
  3. An abnormal rapid pulsation of the heart.
  4. (uncountable, aerodynamics) An extremely dangerous divergent oscillation caused by a positive feedback loop between the elastic deformation of an object and the aerodynamic forces acting on it, potentially resulting in rapid structural failure.
    • 2007, Transportation Safety Board of Canada, “1.12.12 Age-Related Structures and Materials Degradation”, in Aviation Investigation Report A05F0047, Loss of Rudder in Flight, Air Transat Airbus A310-308 C-GPAT, Miami, Florida, 90 nm S, 06 March 2005[1], archived from the original on 23 July 2021, page 40:
      The possibility was studied that there might be some unknown phenomenon at work that could cause a reduction in structural stiffness with age. Such a reduction in stiffness could result in a reduced flutter speed and lead to flutter. In 2004, Airbus conducted GVT in support of its MRTT program. The testing was conducted on an aged A310 aircraft (MSN 523) that had accumulated over 28 000 flight hours. This test aircraft had the same design of VTP and rudder as the occurrence aircraft. GVT results found that fin bending and rudder rotation frequencies of the MRTT test aircraft were consistent with those obtained during the original A310-300 certification. No indication was found to suggest that stiffness had reduced with age.
  5. (Britain) A small bet or risky investment.
    • 1915, W. Somerset Maugham, chapter 93, in Of Human Bondage:
      "Oh, by the way, I heard of a rather good thing today, New Kleinfonteins; it's a gold mine in Rhodesia. If you'd like to have a flutter you might make a bit."
    • 30 July, 2009, Eurosport, Gray Matter: How will Schu do?
      So with his victory odds currently at 14/1 or 3/1 for the podium, he's still most certainly well worth a flutter []
  6. A hasty game of cards or similar.
  7. (audio, electronics) The rapid variation of signal parameters, such as amplitude, phase, and frequency.
    Coordinate term: wow

Derived terms[edit]