Skip to main content
Select Source:

fly

fly1 / flī/ • v. (flies / flīz/ ; past flew / floō/ ; past part. flown / flōn/ ) [intr.] 1. (of a bird or other winged creature) move through the air under control: close the door or the moths will fly in the bird can fly enormous distances. ∎  (of an aircraft or its occupants) travel through the air: I fly back to New York this evening. ∎  [tr.] control the flight of (an aircraft); pilot. ∎  [tr.] transport in an aircraft: helicopters flew the injured to a hospital. ∎  [tr.] accomplish (a purpose) in an aircraft: pilots trained to fly combat missions. ∎  [tr.] release (a bird) to fly, esp. a hawk for hunting or a pigeon for racing. 2. move or be hurled quickly through the air: balls kept flying over her hedge he was sent flying by the tackle. ∎  (past flied) Baseball hit a ball high into the air: Gwynn flied to left. ∎  (past flied) (fly out) Baseball (of a batter) be put out by hitting a fly ball that is caught. ∎  go or move quickly: she flew along the path. ∎ inf. depart hastily: I must fly! ∎  (of time) pass swiftly: how time flies! ∎  (of a report) be circulated among many people: rumors were flying around Chicago. ∎  (of accusations or insults) be exchanged swiftly and heatedly: the accusations flew thick and fast. 3. (esp. of hair) wave or flutter in the wind: they were running, hair flying everywhere. ∎  (of a flag) be displayed, esp. on a flagpole: flags were flying at half-mast. ∎  [tr.] display (a flag). 4. archaic flee; run away: those that fly may fight again. ∎  [tr.] flee from; escape from in haste: you must fly the country for a while. • n. (pl. flies) 1. an opening at the crotch of a pair of pants, closed with a zipper or buttons and typically covered with a flap. ∎  a flap of material covering the opening or fastening of a garment or of a tent: [as adj. in comb.] a fly-fronted shirt. 2. (the flies) the space over the stage in a theater. 3. Baseball short for fly ball. 4. (pl. usu. flys ) Brit. & hist. a one-horse hackney carriage. PHRASES: fly the coop inf. make one's escape. fly the flagsee flag1 . fly high be very successful; prosper: that young man is the sort to fly high. fly in the face of be openly at variance with (what is usual or expected): a need to fly in the face of convention. fly into a rage (or temper) become suddenly or violently angry. fly the nest (of a young bird) leave its nest on becoming able to fly. ∎ inf. (of a young person) leave their parents' home to set up home elsewhere. fly off the handle inf. lose one's temper suddenly and unexpectedly. go fly a kite [in imper.] inf. go away. on the fly while in motion or progress: his deep shot was caught on the fly. ∎  Comput. during the running of a computer program without interrupting the run. PHRASAL VERBS: fly at attack (someone) verbally or physically: Robbie flew at him, fists clenched. ∎  (of a hawk) pursue and attack, or habitually pursue (prey). ∎  (fly a hawk at) send a hawk to pursue and attack (prey). DERIVATIVES: fly·a·ble adj. fly2 • n. (pl. flies / flīz/ ) a flying insect (order Diptera) of a large order characterized by a single pair of transparent wings and sucking (and often also piercing) mouthparts. Flies are noted as vectors of disease. ∎  [usu. in comb.] used in names of flying insects of other orders, e.g., butterfly, dragonfly, firefly. ∎  an infestation of flying insects on a plant or animal: cattle treated for warble fly. ∎  a natural or artificial flying insect used as bait in fishing, esp. a mayfly. PHRASES: die (or drop) like flies die or collapse in large numbers. a fly in the ointment a minor irritation that spoils the success or enjoyment of something. fly on the wall an unnoticed observer of a particular situation. fly3 • adj. (fly·er , fly·est) inf. 1. stylish and fashionable: they were wearin' fly clothes. 2. Brit. knowing and clever; worldly-wise: she's fly enough not to get done out of it. DERIVATIVES: fly·ness n.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fly." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fly." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-3

"fly." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-3

fly

fly1 often taken as the type of something unimportant and trivial.
fly in amber a curious relic of the past, preserved into the present; alluding to the fossilised bodies of insects often found trapped in amber. The image was given a different slant by Michael Crichton's thriller Jurassic Park (1990) and the Spielberg film based on it, in which the DNA essential to the recreation of dinosaurs was retrieved from the animal's blood supposedly fossilized with the insect that had fed from it.
fly in the ointment a minor irritation that spoils the success or enjoyment of something; originally with biblical allusion to Ecclesiastes 10:1, ‘Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour.’
fly on the wall an unnoticed observer of a particular situation. Very often as a modifier, as in fly-on-the-wall documentary, which refers to a film-making technique whereby events are merely observed and presented realistically with minimum interference rather than acted out under direction.
fly on the wheel a person who overestimates their own influence. With reference to Aesop's fable of a fly sitting on the axletree of a moving chariot and saying, ‘See what a dust I raise.’

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fly." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fly." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly

"fly." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly

fly

fly2 fly a kite in figurative usage, try something out to test opinion. This meaning derives ultimately from the historical sense ‘raise money by an accommodation bill’, i.e., raise money on credit, and this sense of testing public opinion of one's creditworthiness gave rise to the current figurative usage. In the US, go fly a kite! means ‘go away!’
fly in the face of be openly at variance with.
fly off the handle lose one's temper suddenly and unexpectedly (figuratively, with reference to the loose head of an axe).
fly the nest leave one's parents' home to set up home elsewhere (literally, of a young bird, leave its nest on becoming able to fly).

See also fly the flag, pigs might fly.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fly." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fly." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-0

"fly." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-0

fly

fly Any of a large order (Diptera) of two-winged insects. They range in size from midges, 1.6mm (0.06in) long, to robber flies more than 76mm (3in) in length. There are between 60,000 and 100,000 species worldwide. All flies undergo metamorphosis. A female lays between one and 250 eggs at a time. The larva (maggot) typically lives on rotting flesh or plants. Adult flies have compound eyes and sucking mouthparts. Many are pests and spread disease, for example the horsefly, mosquito, and tsetse fly. The common housefly is Musca domestica.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fly." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fly." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fly

"fly." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fly

fly

fly2 move with wings; (now in pres. stem only) flee. OE. str. vb. flēogan = OS. *fliogan (Du. vliegen), OHG. fliogan (G. fliegen), ON. fljúga :- Gmc. *fleuʒan :- IE. *pleuk-, extension of *pleu- (cf. *pleud- FLEET3). The normal ME. pt. flegh was at first replaced by the type flough, flow, which was transferred from the pl. to the sing.; this was superseded by flew, an unexpl. form perh. due to assoc. with the pt. of FLOW, the pp. of which had become identical with that of fly.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fly." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fly." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-5

"fly." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-5

fly

fly (fly) n. a two-winged insect belonging to the order Diptera. The mouthparts of flies are adapted for sucking and sometimes also for piercing and biting. Fly larvae (maggots) may infest human tissues and cause disease (see myiasis).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fly." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fly." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly

"fly." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly

Fly (river, New Guinea)

Fly, largest river of the island of New Guinea, c.650 mi (1,050 km) long, rising in the Star Mts. and flowing generally SE through Papua New Guinea to the Gulf of Papua. The Fly is navigable for steamers c.500 mi (800 km) upstream.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fly (river, New Guinea)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fly (river, New Guinea)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fly-river-new-guinea

"Fly (river, New Guinea)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fly-river-new-guinea

fly (in zoology)

fly, name commonly used for any of a variety of winged insects, but properly restricted to members of the order Diptera, the true flies, which includes the housefly, gnat, midge, mosquito, and tsetse fly. All have sucking or piercing-and-sucking mouthparts and, except for a few wingless species, bear one pair of wings. The hind wings are reduced to knobbed balancing organs called halteres. All flies undergo complete metamorphosis, i.e., a four-stage development. The larvae, which occupy a wide variety of ecological niches, typically require a moist environment such as rotting flesh, decaying fruit, or the internal organs of other animals (see blowfly; botfly; fruit fly; tachinid fly). Adults often feed on nectar and plant sap, but some, such as the female horsefly and female mosquito, feed on blood; the adults of some species do not feed at all. A few species are found worldwide, often dispersed by humans; more than 16,000 species are found in North America. Many flies are harmful either as carriers of disease or as destroyers of crops. Some parasitize harmful insects. Some, such as the fruit fly, are important in laboratory studies. Flies are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Diptera.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fly (in zoology)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fly (in zoology)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fly-zoology

"fly (in zoology)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fly-zoology

fly

fly1 winged insect. OE. flȳġe, flēġe = OS., OHG. flioga (Du. vlieg, G. fliege) :- WGmc. *fleuʒ(j)ō, f. *fleuʒan (see next); cf. ON. fluga.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fly." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fly." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-4

"fly." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-4

fly

fly3 flight XV; speed-regulating device, compasscard, etc. XVI; †stage-coach XVIII; light carriage XIX. f. FLY2.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fly." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fly." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-6

"fly." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-6

fly

fly4 (sl.) sharp, wide-awake. XIX. Has been doubtfully referred to FLY2.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fly." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fly." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-7

"fly." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-7

fly

flyally, Altai, apply, assai, awry, ay, aye, Baha'i, belie, bi, Bligh, buy, by, bye, bye-bye, chi, Chiangmai, Ciskei, comply, cry, Cy, Dai, defy, deny, Di, die, do-or-die, dry, Dubai, dye, espy, eye, fie, fly, forbye, fry, Frye, goodbye (US goodby), guy, hereby, hi, hie, high, I, imply, I-spy, July, kai, lie, lye, Mackay, misapply, my, nearby, nigh, Nye, outfly, passer-by, phi, pi, pie, ply, pry, psi, Qinghai, rai, rely, rocaille, rye, scry, serai, shanghai, shy, sigh, sky, Skye, sky-high, sly, spin-dry, spry, spy, sty, Sukhotai, supply, Tai, Thai, thereby, thigh, thy, tie, Transkei, try, tumble-dry, underlie, Versailles, Vi, vie, whereby, why, wry, Wye, xi, Xingtai, Yantai

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fly." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fly." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-2

"fly." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fly-2