Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To strip off the skin or outer covering of.
  • transitive v. To strip of money or goods; fleece.
  • transitive v. To whip or lash.
  • transitive v. To assail with stinging criticism; excoriate.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To cause to fly; put to flight; drive off (by frightening).
  • v. To frighten; scare; terrify.
  • v. To be fear-stricken.
  • n. A fright; a scare.
  • n. Fear; a source of fear; a formidable matter; a fearsome or repellent-looking individual.
  • v. to strip skin off
  • v. to lash

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To skin; to strip off the skin or surface of

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To skin; strip off the skin of: as, to flay an ox.
  • To strip off, in a general sense.
  • To cause to fly; put to flight.
  • To frighten.
  • To be fear-struck.
  • n. Fright; fear.
  • n. A kick; a random blow; a fit of ill humor.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. strip the skin off

Etymologies

Middle English flen, from Old English flēan.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English flayen, flaien, fleien, from Old English *flīeġan ("to cause to fly, put to flight, frighten"; found only in compounds: āflīeġan), from Proto-Germanic *flaugijanan (“to let fly, cause to fly”), causitive of Proto-Germanic *fleuganan (“to fly”), from Proto-Indo-European *plew-k-, *plew- (“to run, flow, swim, fly”). Cognate with Old High German arflaugjan ("to frighten, cause to flee"; whence Middle High German ervlougen ("to put to flight, drive away, expel")), Icelandic fleygja ("to throw away, discard"), Gothic 𐌿𐍃-𐍆𐌻𐌰𐌿𐌲𐌾𐌰𐌽 (us-flaugjan, "to cause to fly"). (Wiktionary)
From Old English flean from Proto-Germanic *flakhanan. Cognate with Old Norse flá ("to flay"), whence Danish flå. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Looks like someone's cosy old granny and has a tongue that would flay a kangaroo.

    Rat Race

  • Would Michelle flay the bannana prior to she cooking it?

    Google Upset by Racist Michelle Obama Image | Drudge Retort

  • "Merciless, cruel, and unforgiving," wrote Angela Carter a more obvious admirer in her 1982 preface to this edition: "Stead has a rare capacity to flay the reader's sensibilities."

    The Man Who Loved Children – review

  • And when he later threatens the recalcitrant Goneril that her sister will "with her nails flay thy wolfish visage", he brandishes his own vulpine claw in her face.

    King Lear – review

  • A sharp blade brandished, he said I'm going to flay you for food.

    Migraine Dreams

  • And they lashed me with whips that flay the skin with each stroke.

    Fire The Sky

  • Conlin, Chopp, everyone on the Council that supported that: Traitors, the lot of them, and this will literally flay and skin them come next election cycle if they don't stand up to the state.

    McGinn Outfoxes Council President Conlin « PubliCola

  • It has become fashionable for critics such as Jonathan Alter, author of a very kind book on Obama's first year, and the New Republic's Jonathan Chait to flay liberals for criticizing Obama on the premise that Republicans were determined to block whatever he sent Congress.

    Robert Kuttner: Black and Bleak

  • "You're lucky I don't flay you alive for this black deed!"

    Archive 2010-02-01

  • They don't anticipate that harassment may await them, equal pay may still be a dream, poverty a reality for many, that a hypersexualised culture will dog their attempts to feel comfortable in their bodies and childcare will flay them when they come to reproduce.

    The new feminists: still fighting

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