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See also: Quail



Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English quaylen, from Middle Dutch queilen, quēlen, from Old Dutch *quelan, from Proto-West Germanic *kwelan, from Proto-Germanic *kwelaną (to suffer). Doublet of queal.

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, to wither. [from 15th c.]
  2. (transitive, now rare) To daunt or frighten (someone). [from 16th c.]
  3. (intransitive) To lose heart or courage; to be daunted or fearful. [from 16th c.]
    • 1847 January – 1848 July, William Makepeace Thackeray, “A Quarrel about an Heiress”, in Vanity Fair [], London: Bradbury and Evans [], published 1848, →OCLC, page 183:
      Though George had stopped in his sentence, yet, his blood being up, he was not to be cowed by all the generations of Osborne; rallying instantly, he replied to the bullying look of his father, with another so indicative of resolution and defiance, that the elder man quailed in his turn, and looked away.
    • 1886 January 5, Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Carew Murder Case”, in Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., →OCLC, page 39:
      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.
    • 1904, Seymour S. Tibbals, The Puritans or The Captain of Plymouth: A Comic Opera in Three Acts, [Franklin, Oh.]: Seymour S. Tibbals, →OCLC, act II, scene i, page 13:
      Stouter hearts than a woman's have quailed in this terrible winter. Yours is tender and trusting, and needs a stronger one to lean on; so I have come to you now, with an offer of marriage.
    • 1949 June 8, George Orwell [pseudonym; Eric Arthur Blair], chapter 2, in Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel, London: Secker & Warburg, →OCLC; republished [Australia]: Project Gutenberg of Australia, August 2001, part 1, page 27:
      The sun had shifted round, and the myriad windows of the Ministry of Truth, with the light no longer shining on them, looked grim as the loopholes of a fortress. His heart quailed before the enormous pyramidal shape. It was too strong, it could not be stormed.
    • 2016 February 20, “Obituary: Antonin Scalia: Always right”, in The Economist[1]:
      His colleagues quailed when, in 1986, he first sat on the court as a brash 50-year-old whose experience had been mostly as a combative government lawyer: a justice who, in that sanctum of columns and deep judicial silence, was suddenly firing questions like grapeshot.
  4. (intransitive) Of courage, faith, etc.: to slacken, to give way. [from 16th c.]
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book I, Canto VIII”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC, stanza 14, page 108:
      Therewith his ſturdie corage ſoone was quayd, / And all his ſences were with ſuddein dread diſmayd.
    • 1869 May, Anthony Trollope, “Hard Words”, in He Knew He Was Right, volumes (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Strahan and Company, [], →OCLC, [https:// page 77]:
      "Sir, if you think your name is shamed by me, we had better part," said Mrs. Trevelyan, rising from her chair, and confronting him with a look before which his own almost quailed.
    • 1928, E. A. Wallis Budge, transl., The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church[:] A translation of the Ethiopic Synaxarium [] , volume 1, London: Cambridge University Press, page 220:
      And he commanded his soldiers [] to frighten them with fierce swords, but the hearts of the holy men did not quail, and they were unable to alter their words.

Etymology 2[edit]

English Wikipedia has an article on:
a common quail (Coturnix coturnix)

From Middle English quayle, quaile, quaille, from Anglo-Norman quaille, from Late Latin quaccola (quail).

(prostitute): So called because the quail was thought to be a very amorous bird.


quail (plural quails or quail)

  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.
    • 1954, Wildlife Review, numbers 75-83, page 44:
      Quail require little water, so there is no point to putting in a guzzler if there is any permanent water within travel range.
  2. (uncountable) The meat from this bird eaten as food.
  3. (obsolete) A prostitute.
Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

From Middle English quaylen, qwaylen, from Old French quaillier, coaillier, from Latin coāgulāre. Doublet of coagulate.


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

  1. (obsolete) To curdle or coagulate, as milk does.

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.
(See the entry for quail”, in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam, 1913, →OCLC.)