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See also: Quail



Etymology 1[edit]

Origin uncertain; perhaps related to Middle Dutch queilen.

Alternative forms[edit]


quail ‎(third-person singular simple present quails, present participle quailing, simple past and past participle quailed)

  1. (intransitive) To waste away; to fade, wither. [from 15th c.]
  2. (transitive, now rare) To frighten, daunt (someone). [from 16th c.]
    • 1978, Lawrence Durrell, Livia, Faber & Faber 1992 (Avignon Quintet), p. 358:
      To tell the truth the prospect rather quailed him – wandering about in the gloomy corridors of a nunnery.
  3. (intransitive) To lose heart or courage; to be daunted, fearful. [from 16th c.]
    • Longfellow
      Stouter hearts than a woman's have quailed in this terrible winter.
    • 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde:
      Mr. Utterson had already quailed at the name of Hyde; but when the stick was laid before him, he could doubt no longer; broken and battered as it was, he recognized it for one that he had himself presented many years before to Henry Jekyll.
    • 1949, George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, p. 25:
      His heart quailed before the enormous pyramidal shape.
  4. (intransitive) To slacken, give way (of courage, faith etc.). [from 16th c.]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English quaille, quaile, from Anglo-Norman quaille, from Old Dutch *kwakila, Frankish *kwakla (compare West Flemish kwakkel), blend of *kwakquack’ and Proto-Germanic *hwahtilō ‘quail’ (compare dialectal Dutch wachtel, German Wachtel), from a diminutive of Proto-Indo-European *kʷoḱt- ‘quail’ (compare Latin coturnīx, cocturnīx, Lithuanian vaštaka, Sanskrit चातक ‎(cātaka) ‘pied cuckoo’), metathesis of *u̯ortokʷ- ‘quail’ (compare Dutch kwartel, Greek ορτύκι ‎(ortúki), Persian ورتیج ‎(vartij’), Sanskrit वर्तका ‎(vartaka)).


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quail ‎(plural quail or quails)

  1. Any of various small game birds of the genera Coturnix, Anurophasis or Perdicula in the Old World family Phasianidae or of the New World family Odontophoridae.
  2. (obsolete) A prostitute; so called because the quail was thought to be a very amorous bird.
    Here's Agamemnon, an honest fellow enough and one that loves quails; but he has not so much brain as earwax. - Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act V, Scene 1
Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

From Old French coaillier, French cailler, from Latin coagulare. See coagulate.


quail ‎(third-person singular simple present quails, present participle quailing, simple past and past participle quailed)

  1. To curdle; to coagulate, as milk does.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Holland to this entry?)

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.