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fly, n.1

Brit. /flʌɪ/
U.S. /flaɪ/
Forms:  Plural flies /flaɪz/. Forms: fléoge (in combination fléog-, fléoh-), flýge, Northumbrian flége, ME fliȝe, southern vliȝe, ME fleoȝe, flye, southern vlie, ME fleȝe, southern vleȝe, fleih, southern vleih, ME–16, 17 Scottish flie, ME– northern and Scottish flee, ME flegh, (ME fleeȝe, fleh, flei(ghe, fley(e, flij), ME–16 flye, 16– fly.(Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Etymology: Old English fléoge, flýge, weak feminine (Northumbrian flége ? strong masculine) = Middle Dutch vlieghe (modern Dutch vlieg, Old High German flioga, fliuga (Middle High German vliege, modern German fliege) < Germanic *fleugôn-, < root of *fleugan to fly. From the weak grade of the same root comes the equivalent Scandinavian word, Old Norse, Swedish fluga, Danish flue.
The plural form in -s appears in 13th cent., but the original plural ending -n was not wholly obsolete in the 15th cent.

a. Any winged insect; as the bee, gnat, locust, moth, etc. Obsolete. Cf. senses 2   4   below, and butterfly n.

c950   Lindisf. Gosp. Matt. xxiii. 24   Latuas blindo gie worðias ðone flege.
1340   Ayenbite (1866) 136   He is ase þe smale uleȝe þet makeþ þet hony.
1563   T. Hill Arte Gardening (1593) 36   Flies (with the long hinder legges).
1599   T. Moufet (title)    Silkewormes and their flies.
1608   E. Topsell Hist. Serpents 86   The blacke Flyes called Beetles.
1649   Bp. J. Taylor Great Exemplar i. viii. 113   Eating Flyes and wilde honey.
1694   Acct. Several Late Voy. (1711) ii. 207   Here are divers sorts of Flies, as Butter-flies, Butchers-flies, Horse-flies.
1774   O. Goldsmith Hist. Earth VIII. 149   The cold weather frequently comes on before the worm is transformed into a fly.

c950—1774(Hide quotations)


 b. A dipterous or two-winged insect, esp. of the family Muscidæ.

c1000   Ælfric Exodus viii. 29   For ðe ic gebidde and ðeos fleoge færþ fram ðe.
c1200   Vices & Virtues (1888) 89   Al dai ðar cumeð to þohtes, al swo doð fliȝen to sare.
c1220   Bestiary 473   Til ðat ðer fleȝes faren and fallen ðer-inne.
1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomew de Glanville De Proprietatibus Rerum (1495) v. xxiii. 130   Bees and flyes haue no voys, but make a voys in fleenge.
a1400  (a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) l. 5990   To-morn þe fleies sal be you fra.
1477   Earl Rivers tr. Dictes or Sayengis Philosophhres (Caxton) (1877) lf. 36v   Theflye that setteth her vpon corrupt thinges.
1513   G. Douglas in tr. Virgil Æneid xii. Prol. 172   To knit hyr nettis..Tharwith to caucht the myghe and littill fle.
1615   G. Sandys Relation of Journey 203   The infinite swarmes of flies that do shine like glow-wormes.
1841   R. W. Emerson Prudence in Ess. 1st Ser. (London ed.) 228   Do what we can, summer will have its flies.

c1000—1841(Hide quotations)


 c. figurative.

?c1225  (?a1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. C.vi) (1972) 214   Þe dogge of helle..wið his blodi fleȝen of stinkinde þochtes.
c1325   Coer de L. 2917   In whyt schetys they gunne hem wryen For the bytyng of his flyen.
1607   T. Dekker & J. Webster Famous Hist. Thomas Wyat sig. A2v   The Fly is angrie, but hee wants a sting.

?c1225—1607(Hide quotations)


 d. A type of something insignificant.

1297   R. Gloucester's Chron. (1724) 428   Wat was þy strengþe worþ?..ywys noȝt worþ a flye.
c1405  (c1390)    Chaucer Reeve's Tale (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 272   Aleyn answerde, I counte hym noght a flye.
a1535   T. More Dialoge of Comfort (1553) i. ii. sig. A.vi   Without which..al the spiritual comfort that any man maye speake of can neuer auaile a flye.
1794   R. Burns Poems & Songs (1968) II. 751   I care na wealth a single flie.
a1830   W. Hazlitt Conversat. Authors   He would not hurt a fly.

1297—a1830(Hide quotations)


 e. Phrases: like a fly in amber: see amber n.2 1a. a fly in the ointment    [after Eccl. x. 1] : some small or trifling circumstance which spoils the enjoyment of a thing, or detracts from its agreeableness. fly on the (coach-)wheel (see quot. 1870). to send away with a fly in one's ear : cf. flea n. 4   to break, crush, a fly upon the wheel (figurative): to spend a great deal of energy and labour upon something not worth it. let that fly stick in (or to) the wall (Scottish): say nothing more on that subject. don't let flies stick to your heels: be quick. (to) drink with the flies (Australian and New Zealand colloquial): see quot. 1943.

1606   True Relation Proc. at Arraignm. Late Traitors sig. Zz4v   The princes..sent away your second Mercury with a flie in his eare.
1723   J. Woodward Ess. Nat. Hist. Earth (ed. 3) 82   Flyes..that I have yet seen inclos'd in Amber.
1814   Scott Waverley III. xxiii. 355   O whisht, Colonel, for the love o' God! let that flee stick i' the wa'.  
1824   T. De Quincey Incognito in Knight's Q. Mag. 3 143   To apply any more elaborate criticism to them, would be ‘to break a fly upon the wheel’.
1828   C. Lamb Poor Relations in Elia 2nd Ser. 148   A Poor Relation is—the most irrelevant thing in nature,—..a lion in your path,—a frog in your chamber,—a fly in your ointment.
1836   Going to Service iv. 44   Don't let flies stick to your heels, and don't let ten minutes get the start of you.
1840   E. Bulwer-Lytton Money v. iii   I have the greatest respect..for the worthy and intelligent flies upon both sides the wheel.
1870   E. C. Brewer Dict. Phrase & Fable    Fly on the coach wheel, one who fancies himself of mighty importance, but who is in reality of none at all.
1914   Scotsman 10 Sept. 9/1   The present situation is not without its ‘fly in the ointment’ for those motorists who have patriotically lent the assistance of their cars to the military authorities.
1928   Daily Express 11 May 10/7   The insurance of school fees has now become so general that it is as well to point out to parents that there is a rather large fly in the ointment.
1936   A. Huxley Olive Tree 5   There is only one fly in the ointment offered by commercial propagandists; they want your money.
1940   Bulletin (Sydney) 3 Jan. 35/3   He never needs to buy whisky, either, though a natural antipathy to drinking with the flies saves the officer's supply.
1943   S. J. Baker Dict. Austral. Slang (ed. 3) 28   Drink with the flies: a drink consumed without the company of others. Also, to drink alone.

1606—1943(Hide quotations)


 f. Proverbs.

a1420   T. Hoccleve De Regimine Principum 110   A flye folowethe the hony.
1528   J. Skelton Honorificatissimo: Replycacion agaynst Yong Scolers sig. Av   The blynde eteth many a flye.
1546   J. Heywood Dialogue Prouerbes Eng. Tongue ii. ix. sig. Kiv   Hungry flyes byte sore.

a1420—1546(Hide quotations)


 g. there are no flies on:  (a) there is no lack of activity or astuteness in (a person); there is no fault to be found with, there are no blemishes in;  (b) there is nothing dishonest or ‘shady’ about (a transaction). So to have no flies on , etc. slang (orig. Australian or U.S.).The earliest examples indicate that the phrase was probably originally applied to cattle that are so active that flies do not settle on them.

1848   H. W. Haygarth Recoll. Bush Life Austral. ix. 101   ‘It's lucky we got them,’ said Amos; ‘there were “no flies” about that black bull.’ Note. This expression is very common in Australia... Anything particularly good is said by the class of men we are here describing to have ‘no flies’ about it.
1868   J. Diprose St. Clement Danes 99   To this celebrated pugilist [sc. Deaf Burke] is attributed the old story of the ‘flies in the gin-and-water’, and hence the term ‘no flies’ became prevalent. [The story follows.]
1888   Missouri Republ. 24 Feb. in J. S. Farmer Americanisms (1889)    Persons who are capable of descending to New York and Boston English are fully justified in saying that there are no flies on St. Louis or the St. Louis delegation either.
1888   Detroit Free Press 25 Aug. (Farmer & Henley)   There ain't no flies on him, signifies, that he is not quiet long enough for moss to grow on his heels, that he is wide awake.
1893   J. S. Farmer & W. E. Henley Slang III. 23/1   There are no flies on me, on him, etc.,..‘I am dealing honestly with you’; ‘he is genuine, and is not humbugging’. In America, the expression is used of (1) a man of quick parts..(2) a person of superior breeding or descent.
1897   R. M. Stuart In Simpkinsville i. 18   They wasn't no flies on his shape, nor his rig, nor his manners neither.
1898   Strand Mag. May 516   I kin put you in the way of making your pile, I kin. This is a bona-fide offer. No flies on my business.
1900   G. Bonner Hard-pan iii. 83   There are no flies on your little sister.
1928   J. Galsworthy Swan Song ii. vi. 156   There are no flies on your uncle.
1948   C. Day Lewis Otterbury Incident iv. 43   There are no flies on Rickie. I'm pretty sure he'd spotted how his own shoes got dirty.
1961   Observer 23 Apr. 18/2   There are no flies on Benaud. If England start bowling their overs slowly, no one will have to draw his attention to it.

1848—1961(Hide quotations)


 h. like flies: in large numbers or huge quantities.

[1595   Shakespeare Henry VI, Pt. 3 ii. vi. 8   The common people swarme like summer flies.]
1934   A. Hyder Black-girl, White-lady xxi. 309   ‘Yo' kills niggers?’ ‘Like flies,’ Charley assured her.
1958   R. Liddell Morea iii. ii. 245   Now, at the end of 1955, people were marrying like flies; it is unlucky to marry in a leap year.

1934—1958(Hide quotations)


 i. fly on the wall:  (a) an unperceived observer; one who is able to overhear discussions, etc., without being observed or involved;  (b) Cinematography a film-making technique in which events are presented realistically by observing rather than by directing the action; frequently attributive; cf. cinéma vérité n. and adj.

1949   N. Mitford Love in Cold Climate i. vi. 61   I had been throwing an occasional glance in their direction, wondering what it could all be about and wishing I could be a fly on the wall to hear them.
1971   A. Sampson New Anat. Brit. xii. 239   I spent a week inside the department, overhearing committees and meetings as a fly on the wall.
1983   Listener 10 Feb. 8/3   The ‘fly-on-the-wall’ technique, so successful elsewhere, would not overcome this problem.
1985   M. R. D. Meek Split Second vi. 38   ‘What did you wheedle out of Maggie?’ ‘Well..she was no fly on the wall, but there have to be letters, documents, papers to be typed.’
1986   City Limits 12 June 23   This is a film that has tried hard not to impinge its identity on its subject, using a fly on the wall approach.

1949—1986(Hide quotations)


 2. With defining word as black-, blow-, flesh-, horse-, house-, sheep-fly, etc.: see those words.   Hessian fly n. ( Cecidomyia destructor) an insect that infests wheat, said to have been introduced into America with the Hessian troops, during the War of Independence.  Spanish fly n. = cantharides n.  tsetse-fly n. ( Glossina morsitans) an African fly which carries disease (esp. sleeping sickness) and transmits it to humans and animals by biting.

a1605   A. Montgomerie Flyting with Polwart 314   The feavers, the fearcie, with the speinȝie flees.
1661   R. Lovell Πανζωορυκτολογια Isagoge sig. C2v   The pilularie beetle and spanish flies.
1799   G. Washington Let. in Writings (1893) XIV. 196   Letter relative to the loss of his crop, by the Hessian fly.
1812   J. Smyth Pract. of Customs ii. 51   Cantharides, commonly called Spanish flies.
1877   J. T. Baines Gold Regions S.E. Afr. 109   A considerable portion of this step is infested with the Tsetse fly.

a1605—1877(Hide quotations)


 a. In farmers' and gardeners' language, often used without defining prefix for the insect parasite chiefly injurious to the particular crop or animal indicated by the context; the hop-fly, potato-fly, turnip-fly, sheep-fly, etc. Chiefly collective in singular as the name of the disease consisting in or caused by the ravages of these insects.

a1704   J. Locke Wks. (1714) III. 436   Before they come to think of the Fly in their Sheep, or the Tares in their Corn.
1707   J. Mortimer Whole Art Husbandry 122   To prevent the Fly [in turnips] some propose to sow Ashes with the Seed.
1799   Trans. Soc. Arts 17 47   An easy and efficacious method of destroying the Fly on Hops.
1819   A. Rees Cycl. XIV   Fly..a disease incident to sheep, in consequence of their being stricken by a fly, which produces a sort of maggot, that eats into, and remains in the flesh.
1830   J. Baxter Libr. Agric. & Hort. Knowl. 460   The marks left on the skin by the blows of the fly.
1842   C. W. Johnson Farmer's Encycl. 490/1   Fly in turnips (Altica nemorum), the vulgar name of a species of flea-beetle, which attacks the turnip crop in the cotyledon, or seed leaf, as soon as it appears.
1888   Times 26 June 12/1   In some (hop) gardens a good deal of fly exists.

a1704—1888(Hide quotations)


 b. elliptical. The tsetse fly. South African.

1856   C. J. Andersson Lake Ngami 488   The natives, who are well acquainted with localities frequented by the fly.
1864   J. T. Baines Explor. S.-W. Afr. [424]   They have lost all their oxen by the fly.
1877   J. T. Baines Gold Regions S.E. Afr. 57   Keeping a sharp look out upon our own and each others horses to see that no ‘fly’ settled on them.

1856—1877(Hide quotations)

1868   J. Chapman Trav. I. 163   At night, as the moon rose, we started to get through the fly, but, on entering it, our wagon struck against a large tree.

1868—1868(Hide quotations)


 4. Angling.  (a) An insect attached to a hook as a lure in the mode of angling called fly-fishing.  (b) An artificial fly, i.e. a fish-hook dressed with feathers, silk, etc., so as to imitate some insect.Often collective in the phrase to fish with fly .

1589   J. Lyly Pappe with Hatchet 3   I doo but yet angle with a silken flye, to see whether Martins will nibble.
1653   I. Walton Compl. Angler iv. 93   Or with a Flie, either a natural or an artificial Flie.  
1653   I. Walton Compl. Angler iv. 111   Your gold, or what materials soever you make your Fly of.  
a1740   T. Tickell Epist. to Lady before Marriage 39   Here let me..lure the trout with well-dissembled flies.
1881   C. Gibbon Heart's Probl. x. 154   He..tossed it [fish] into his basket, and cast his fly again.
a1625   J. Fletcher Rule a Wife (1640) i. 5   Sit close Don Perez, or your worship's caught, I feare a flye.

1589—1881(Hide quotations)


 a. A familiar demon (from the notion that devils were accustomed to assume the form of flies). Obsolete.

1584   R. Scot Discouerie Witchcraft iii. xv. 65   A flie, otherwise called a diuell or familiar.
1612   B. Jonson Alchemist i. ii. sig. C   A riflng Fly: none o' your great Familiars.  

1584—1612(Hide quotations)


 b. transferred, and with allusion to the insect's finding its way into the most private places: A spy (cf. French mouche). Obsolete.

1622   Bacon Hist. Raigne Henry VII 241   There was this..Good in his employing of these Flies and Familiars; that..the..Suspition of them kept..many Conspiracies from beeing attempted.
a1643   W. Cartwright Ordinary (1651) ii. iv. 32   He hath a Fly only to win good cloaths.
1649   Bp. J. Hall Resol. & Decisions ii. vii. 187   These mercenary Flies, whether of State, or of Religion, are justly hatefull.

1622—1649(Hide quotations)


 c. A parasite, flatterer (cf. Latin musca). Obsolete.

 6. Printing.

 a. A ‘printer's devil’ (cf. 5a).

1683   J. Moxon Mech. Exercises II. Dict. 373   Devil,..the Workmen do Jocosely call them Devils; and sometimes Spirits, and sometimes Flies.
1841   W. Savage Dict. Art of Printing (at cited word)   These boys are not now called devils, as in the time of Moxon, but Flies, or Fly Boys.

1683—1841(Hide quotations)


 b. The person who takes the sheets from the press, the ‘taker-off’; also, that part of a printing machine which usually performs that office now. (Cf. flyer n.)

1732   Grub-St. Jrnl. 26 Oct. in W. Hone Every-day Bk. (1827) II. 1240   The inferior order among us, called flies, employed in taking newspapers off the press.
1838   C. H. Timperley Printers' Man. 113   Fly, the person that takes off the sheet from the press in cases of expedition.
1871   Amer. Encycl. Printing 172/1   Fly, an invention for taking off or delivering the sheets from a power-press.

1732—1871(Hide quotations)


 a. A ‘patch’ for the face.  [translating French mouche.] ). Obsolete.

1658   R. White tr. K. Digby Late Disc. Cure Wounds 102   The patches and flies which she put upon her face.

1658—1658(Hide quotations)


b. Some kind of head-dress. Cf. fly-cap n. at Compounds 2a   (in sense Compounds 2). Obsolete.

1773   History of Lord Ainsworth I. 139   Her beautiful tresses were..fasten'd behind with a diamond comb; over which was plac'd a small French fly, ornamented with large sprigs set with brilliants.
1774   Westm. Mag. May 259   Ladies..still wear their hair low before..Small flys, the wings very wide apart at the top, and very small and short lappets.

1773—1774(Hide quotations)


8. With reference to a festival formerly observed by the Oxford cooks. Obsolete.On Whit-Tuesday the cooks ‘marched in silken doublets on horseback to Bartholomews or Bullingdon Green to fetch the fly’, and ‘on Michaelmas Day they rode thither again to carry the fly away’. See Aubrey Rem. Gentilisme (1881) 202 (written in 1686); Aubrey supposed the sense to be that of 5a   above.

c1602   in M. L. Lee Narcissus (1893) App. ii. 32   They [the cooks] have sett a little porch before so great an house, and have called their show the flye.
1654   E. Gayton Pleasant Notes Don Quixot iii. v. 99   The man that preaches the Cooks Sermon at Oxford, when that plump Society rides upon their Governours Horses to fetch in the Enemie, the Flie.
1661–6   A. Wood Hist. & Antiq. Univ. Oxf. (O.H.S.) II. 515 (note)    Many people resorted here [i.e. to St. Bartholomew's Hospital]; as the cooks bringing in of the fly.

c1602—1661–6(Hide quotations)


 9. slang. A policeman. Cf. bluebottle n. 2.

1857   R. L. Snowden Magistrate's Assistant (ed. 3) 446   A policeman, a fly.

1857—1857(Hide quotations)



 C1. General attributive.
 a. Simple attributive.

  fly-blight   n.  [translating German fliegenglas]

1887   Daily News 28 June 2/5   The plantations in these districts being most affected by the ‘fly blight’.

1887—1887(Hide quotations)


  fly-bottle   n.

1953   G. E. M. Anscombe tr. L. Wittgenstein Philos. Investig. §309   What is your aim in philosophy?—To shew the fly the way out of the fly-bottle.
1967   Philos. Q. XVII. 363   I would like an illustration of a flybottle, which people describe variously.
1969   Proc. Aristotelian Soc. 43 Suppl. 108   If the exit from the fly-bottle is an entry into too restrictive a cupboard, it seems necessary to find a way out of the cupboard as well.

1953—1969(Hide quotations)


  fly-kind   n.

1691   J. Ray Wisdom of God 6   The Fly-kind, if under that name we comprehend all other flying Insects.

1691—1691(Hide quotations)


  fly-maggot   n.

1692   J. Ray Wisdom of God (ed. 2) ii. 123   The Flie-Maggots.

1692—1692(Hide quotations)


  fly-screen   n.

1903   Work 1 Aug. 412/3   Inside this lining will be laid a thin coating of tinfoil, on which will be placed what will look like a strong netting or fly-screen, except that the wires of which it is composed will be carefully joined and highly polished.
1952   ‘N. Shute’ Far Country 18   She went and rang the dinner bell outside the flyscreen door.
1971   Sunday Times (Johannesburg) 28 Mar. (Business section) 5/2   Adjustable aluminium louvres..may also be fitted with flyscreens.

1903—1971(Hide quotations)


  fly state   n.

1791   W. Bartram Trav. N. & S. Carolina 83   When they appear in the fly state.

1791—1791(Hide quotations)

 (b) (In sense 2.)

  fly-belt   n.

1894   Westm. Gaz. 17 Nov. 5/1   The Beira line had now completely spanned the ‘fly’ belt.

1894—1894(Hide quotations)


  fly-country   n.

1864   J. T. Baines Explor. S.-W. Afr. iv. 68   Treachery of guides purposely sent by the chiefs to lead him into the fly country.
1891   Pall Mall Gaz. 8 Dec. 1/3   When the railway..has crossed the fly country.

1864—1891(Hide quotations)

 (c) (In sense 4.)

  fly-tackle   n.

1834   T. Medwin Angler in Wales II. 113   I was half sorry that I had no fly-tackle, and soon tired.

1834—1834(Hide quotations)

 (d) (In sense 6b.)

  fly-pulley   n.

1875   J. Southward Dict. Typogr. (ed. 2) 124   Let it run down the fly so that it is barely held by the fly pulleys.

1875—1875(Hide quotations)

 b. Objective.
 (a) (In sense 1b.)

  fly-breeder   n.

1751   T. Smollett Peregrine Pickle IV. cii. 131   ‘I never dispute..with the son of a cucumber,’ said the fly-breeder.

1751—1751(Hide quotations)


  fly-fancier   n.

1751   T. Smollett Peregrine Pickle IV. cii. 131   The fly-fancier..accused the mathematician.

1751—1751(Hide quotations)


  fly-hunter   n.

1895   C. C. Abbott Birds about Us iv. 113   They are fly-catchers, not fly-hunters.

1895—1895(Hide quotations)


  fly-killer   n.

1658   J. Rowland tr. T. Moffett Theater of Insects in Topsell's Hist. Four-footed Beasts (rev. ed.) 951   He was afterwards called by the name of Muscarius or Fly-killer.

1658—1658(Hide quotations)


  fly-scarer   n.

1638   T. Herbert Some Yeares Trav. (rev. ed.) 68   On the left hand, Rajea Bousing fly-skarer.

1638—1638(Hide quotations)


fly-way-driver   n. Obsolete

1658   J. Rowland tr. T. Moffett Theater of Insects in Topsell's Hist. Four-footed Beasts (rev. ed.) 951   Jupiter, called ἀπομύιος, or the Fly-way-driver.

1658—1658(Hide quotations)


  fly-whipper   n.

1872   S. W. Baker Nile Tributaries Abyssinia (new ed.) viii. 134   The long tails of the giraffes are admirable fly-whippers.

1872—1872(Hide quotations)


  fly-catching   n. and adj.

1702   C. Mather Magnalia Christi iv. ii. iv. 180/2   A certain soaring and serious Greatness of Soul, which rendred Fly-catching too low a Business for him.
1890   Webster's Internat. Dict. Eng. Lang.   Fly-catching (Zoöl.), having the habit of catching insects on the wing.

1702—1890(Hide quotations)


  fly-hunting   n.

1838   Dickens Mem. Grimaldi I. ii. 41   He had been fly-hunting with his friend.

1838—1838(Hide quotations)


  fly-proof adj.

1817   Niles' Reg. 12 284/1   I found several of the other kinds of wheat..growing on some farms in the same field with the fly-proof or Lawler wheat.
1944   Living off Land: Man. Bushcraft ii. 34   Keep the smokehouse fly-proof by covering the top.

1817—1944(Hide quotations)

 (b) (In sense 4.).

  fly-caster   n.

1897   Outing 30 221/2   It is not every fly-caster who can properly manipulate a live or dead minnow, a crawfish, or a spoon.
1926   Daily Colonist (Victoria, Brit. Columbia) 9 July 16/1   Earl C. McFarland..nationally known fly~caster and sportsman, died..today.

1897—1926(Hide quotations)


  fly-maker   n.

1787   T. Best Conc. Treat. Angling (ed. 2) 77   Every man his own fly-maker.

1787—1787(Hide quotations)


  fly-taker   n.

1889   Cent. Dict.   Fly-taker, in angling, any fish that will take the fly.

1889—1889(Hide quotations)


  fly-dressing   n.

1886   J. H. Keene Fishing Tackle 202   There is no royal road to fly-dressing however.

1886—1886(Hide quotations)


  fly-making   n.

1653   I. Walton Compl. Angler iv. 113   The Art of flie-making .  
1801–3   W. B. Daniel Rural Sports II. 296   Hackles are a very important article in Fly-making.

1653—1801–3(Hide quotations)


  fly-taking adj.

1840   S. R. Tickell in Jrnl. Asiatic Soc. Bengal 9 ii. 705   The little fly-taking Cyprinus, miscalled ‘trout’ in Upper India.

1840—1840(Hide quotations)

 c. Instrumental.

  fly-angling   n.

1653   I. Walton Compl. Angler iv. 110   These and the May-fly are the ground of all fly-Angling .  

1653—1653(Hide quotations)


fly-biting   n. Obsolete

1659   D. Pell Πελαγος 417   It is comparatively but a..meer fly-biting to what they undergo.

1659—1659(Hide quotations)


  fly-bit adj.

1821   J. Clare Village Minstrel I. 203   Their fly-bit hides.

1821—1821(Hide quotations)


  fly-stuck adj.

1877   J. T. Baines Gold Regions S.E. Afr. 151   A fly-stuck ox.

1877—1877(Hide quotations)


  fly-swarmed adj.

1879   E. Arnold Light of Asia 69   The fly-swarmed sweetmeat shops.

1879—1879(Hide quotations)

 a. Special combinations. Also fly-bane n., fly-bitten adj., fly-blow v., fly-blown adj., fly-catcher n., fly-fish v., etc.

  fly-bat   n. a species of fly found in Barbados.

1750   G. Hughes Nat. Hist. Barbados 211   The Fly-bats come from their lurking holes.

1750—1750(Hide quotations)


  fly-bird   n. a humming-bird (cf. French oiseau-mouche).

1782–3   W. F. Martyn Geogr. Mag. 2 468   The fly-bird is esteemed one of the most beautiful.
1842   T. Hood Elm Tree iii. xxiii   The Fly-bird flutters up and down, To catch its tiny prey.

1782–3—1842(Hide quotations)


  fly-blister   n. a plaster made of Cantharides.

1869   ‘M. Twain’ Innocents Abroad xvii. 167   A Venus with a fly-blister on her breast.

1869—1869(Hide quotations)


  fly-book   n. a case in the form of a book, in which anglers keep artificial flies.

1848   C. Kingsley Yeast in Fraser's Mag. Sept. 299/1   I put it in the squire's Fly-book.

1848—1848(Hide quotations)


  fly-brush   n. a brush for driving away flies.

1838   C. Gilman Recoll. Southern Matron iv. 38   As he wielded the fly-brush, he peeped out of one corner of his eye at the stranger's proceedings.
1841   G. Catlin Lett. N. Amer. Indians I. xvi. 113   [The Indian's] fly-brush, made of the buffalo's tail.
1888   J. L. Allen in Cent. Mag. Apr. 946   The abandoned fly-brush lay full across his face.

1838—1888(Hide quotations)


  fly-cage   n. a contrivance for catching flies.

1838   Dickens Oliver Twist II. xxxvi. 286   A paper fly-cage dangled from the ceiling.

1838—1838(Hide quotations)


fly-cap   n. Obsolete a kind of head-dress (see quot. 1762).

1753   Gentleman's Mag. 23 123/2   The ladies.. should not sacrifice the vigor of health..to a fly cap.
1762   London Chron. 16–18 Feb. 167/3   The Fly Cap..is fixed upon the forehead, forming the figure of an over-grown butterfly..with outstretched wings.
1832   M. R. Mitford Our Village V. 78   With powdered hair and fly-caps and lappets.

1753—1832(Hide quotations)


  fly-case   n. the covering of an insect; spec. the anterior wing of beetles, elytron.


  fly-dope   n. North American a liniment used as a protection against flies.

1897   Outing 30 377/1   The fly-dope, or preventive against the attacks of insects.
1903   S. E. White Forest ix. 106   Each and every man..heralds the particular merits of his own fly-dope.

1897—1903(Hide quotations)


  fly-duster   n. = fly-brush n.

1860   Mercantile Marine Mag. 7 270   The kahili is made of black feathers, fastened on a pole, much resembling a fly-duster.

1860—1860(Hide quotations)


  fly-eater   n. an eater of flies, spec. any of several small Australian fly-catchers of the genus Gerygone.

1895   W. O. Legge in Rep. Australasian Assoc. Adv. Sci. VI. 447   [The habits and habitats of the genus as] applied to Gerygone suggested the term Fly-eater, as distinguished from Fly-catcher.
1906   Westm. Gaz. 30 May 12/1   Starlings [are] great fly-eaters.
1930   W. de la Mare Desert Islands 212   Owl, kingfisher, robin, fly-eater.
1958   P. C. Morrison Austral. Bird Bk. 143   Brown warbler, flyeater, G[erygone] richmondii.

1895—1958(Hide quotations)


  fly-fan   n. a fly-flick, or a motor-driven fan for driving away flies.

1891   A. H. Keane tr. W. Junker Trav. in Afr. II. viii. 276   His hand also grasped, not a warlike assegai, but a peaceful fly-fan!
a1911   D. G. Phillips Susan Lenox (1917) I. xvii. 300   They went into a large restaurant with fly fans speeding.

1891—a1911(Hide quotations)


  fly-flick   n. an instrument for killing or driving away flies.

1914   D. Fraser Winning Primitive People iv. 45   He carried nothing in his hand but a fly-flick.

1914—1914(Hide quotations)


fly-fringe   n. Obsolete (see quot.).

1860   F. W. Fairholt Costume in Eng. (ed. 2) (Gloss.)   Fly-fringe, a peculiar edging for ladies' sleeves and dresses; much worn in the early part of the reign of George III.

1860—1860(Hide quotations)


  fly-fungus   n.  (a) the fly-agaric, Amanita muscaria;  (b) the house-fly fungus, Entomophthora muscæ.

1822   Mem. Wernerian Soc. Edinb. IV. 343   The plant commonly known by the name of the fly-fungus (from its property of destroying flies when steeped in milk), has made some noise of late on the Continent.
1910   Encycl. Brit. I. 780/1   Amanita muscaria, the fly fungus, formerly known as Agaricus muscarius.
1912   L. O. Howard House Fly ii. 64   With the common house fly fungus (Empusa muscae) a slight change in the amount of atmospheric moisture is sufficient to bring about germination.
1952   C. J. Alexopoulos Introd. Mycol. vii. 177   The most familiar of the Entomophthorales is Entomophthora muscae, commonly called the fly fungus.

1822—1952(Hide quotations)


  fly-hook   n. a hook baited with a fly.

1706   R. Howlett Anglers Sure Guide 88   A middle-siz'd Flie-Hook.

1706—1706(Hide quotations)


  fly-line   n. a line for fly-fishing.

1706   R. Howlett Anglers Sure Guide 97   The Flie-Line should be made very taper.
1854   C. D. Badham Prose Halieutics ii. 19   Neither fly-rods, fly-lines, reels..nor landing-net.

1706—1854(Hide quotations)


  fly-mould   n. = fly-fungus n.   (b).

1908   Westm. Gaz. 8 Aug. 16/3   Flies..may be seen..lying about in odd corners covered with a mouldy grey fur, which is called fly-mould.

1908—1908(Hide quotations)


  fly-paper   n.  (a) a sheet of paper prepared to catch or poison flies;  (b) Flypaper Act (slang), the Prevention of Crimes Act, 1909; so to be on the flypaper , to be subject to this Act, to be a criminal known to the police.

1851   H. Mayhew London Labour I. 435/1   Fly-papers came..into street-traffic..in the summer of 1848.
1910   F. Martyn Burglar in Baulk 8   On the flypaper, subject to the Crimes Prevention Act.
1933   C. E. Leach On Top of Underworld x. 139   Flypaper Act..Prevention of Crimes Act.
1936   ‘J. Curtis’ Gilt Kid ii. 23   He gets nicked for suspect and being on the flypaper, he gets a stretch in the Ville.
1941   Coast to Coast 76   A spiral fly paper hung from the ceiling.
1971   Islander (Victoria, Brit. Columbia) 22 Aug. 3/1   From the..ceiling hung a few well encrusted fly papers.

1851—1971(Hide quotations)


  fly-powder   n. a powder used to kill flies.

1839   A. Ure Dict. Arts 511   Fly powder, the black coloured powder obtained by the spontaneous oxidizement of metallic arsenic in the air.

1839—1839(Hide quotations)


  fly-rod   n. a rod for fly-fishing.

1684   R. Howlett School Recreat. 149   The Line..for the Fly-Rod..must be stronger than the first.
1843   Atkinson in Zoologist 1 294   I tapped it with the end of my fly-rod.

1684—1843(Hide quotations)


  fly-slicer   n. slang (see quot.).

1785   F. Grose Classical Dict. Vulgar Tongue   Fly slicers, life guard men, from their sitting on horse~back, under an arch, where they are frequently observed to drive away flies with their swords.

1785—1785(Hide quotations)


  fly-snapper   n. U.S. a name of certain fly-catching birds:  (a) the genus Myiagra;  (b) Phainopepla nitens.

1895   C. C. Abbott Birds about Us ii. 75   Well..did the flysnapper only make believe to launch out after insects?

1895—1895(Hide quotations)


  fly-speck   n.  (a) a stain produced by the excrement of an insect; also figurative;  (b) a plant disease, esp. of apples and pears, caused by the fungus Leptothyrium pomi; also attributive.

1855   J. Ogilvie Suppl. Imperial Dict.   Fly-speck.
1865   H. B. Stowe House & Home Papers 290   I would shut my eyes on fly-specks, and open them on the beauties of Nature.
1907   Westm. Gaz. 15 July 2/1   Even your Caesar Borgia is but a fly-speck in the infinite.
1909   R. A. Wason Happy Hawkins 113   Lookin' like a fly-speck on a new tablecloth.
1939   H. Wormald Dis. Fruits & Hops v. 103   Frequently associated with Sooty Blotch, but sometimes occurring alone, are groups of black, circular dots which from their size and appearance are known as Fly Specks.
1943   S. J. Baker Dict. Austral. Slang (ed. 3) 75   The speck, Tasmania. Also, ‘the Fly Speck’.
1952   E. Ramsden tr. E. Gram & H. Weber Plant Dis. 126/2   The fly speck fungus produces groups of round black dots on apples and sometimes on pears and plums.
1961   Trans. Brit. Mycol. Soc. 44 304   The Micropeltaceae or ‘fly~speck’ fungi are treated by Prof. Batista as one of the seven families of the Microthyriales.

1855—1961(Hide quotations)


  fly-specked adj. marked with fly-specks.

1872   ‘M. Twain’ Roughing It iv. 43   Only one cruet left,..a stopperless, fly-specked, broken-necked thing.
1883   Harper's Mag. Mar. 528/1   A fly-specked old engraving.

1872—1883(Hide quotations)


  fly-speckled adj. = fly-specked adj.

1881   M. Laffan in Macmillan's Mag. 44 388   Pictures, yellowed by turf smoke and well fly-speckled.

1881—1881(Hide quotations)


  fly-spot   n.

1851   D. Jerrold St. Giles & St. James (new ed.) v, in Writings I. 47   There are a thousand cracks and flaws and fly-spots upon everything about us.
[1890   J. H. Steel Treat. Dis. Sheep x. 325   Even a dog is able to tell when sheep have been struck by the fly.
1937   A. Fraser Sheep Farming xv. 143   When the weather favours strike..the maggot fly may cause hundreds of pounds worth of damage.]

1851—1851(Hide quotations)


  fly-strike n. a skin disease of sheep, caused by the maggots of blow-flies, esp. those of the genera Lucilia and Calliphora.

1950   H. G. Belschner Sheep Managem. & Dis. vi. 178   The treatment of fly-strike in sheep should be undertaken as soon as possible.
1965   C. R. W. Spedding Sheep Prod. viii. 210   When the eggs hatch, the maggots burrow under the skin and this is described as ‘fly strike’.

1950—1965(Hide quotations)


  fly-struck adj.

1922   C. R. Edmonds Dis. Animals S. Afr. ii. 310   This trouble [sc. sheep blowfly] is usually designated as ‘fly-blown sheep’ or ‘fly-struck sheep’.
1934   Bulletin (Sydney) 18 Apr. 28/1   A fresh paddock will work wonders even if the flock in it includes fly-struck sheep.
1950   H. G. Belschner Sheep Managem. & Dis. vi. 178   The only equipment necessary to dress a fly-struck sheep is a pair of shears, a suitable dressing, and a small horsehair brush.

1922—1950(Hide quotations)


  fly-swat   n. = swatter n.

1937   A. M. N. Lyons Tom, Dick & Harriet xxvi. 225   He carried a fly~swat..and flourished this..in a menacing manner.

1937—1937(Hide quotations)


  fly-swatter   n. = fly-swat n.

1917   Blackwood's Mag. May 753/1   Fly-papers and fly-swatters proved illusive.
1937   Sunday Express 30 May 17/3   Then he took to ‘fly-swatters’ and things for protecting food from the fly menace.

1917—1937(Hide quotations)


  fly-swish   n. = fly-whisk n.

1922   Blackwood's Mag. Apr. 462/1   An old fly-swish made of palm-leaves.
1927   World Dominion Oct. 318   His inevitable fly-swish under his arm.
1947   J. Stevenson-Hamilton Wild Life S. Afr. iv. 42   The trunk is indeed everything to the elephant..Furnished with a good large bunch of long grass it makes a better fly~swish than do most animals' own tails.

1922—1947(Hide quotations)


  fly-tier   n. (also fly-tyer) a maker of artificial flies.

1881   Echo 11 Apr. 3/6   The..cleverest fly-tier in England.

1881—1881(Hide quotations)


  fly-time   n. the time when flies are to be met with or are troublesome.

1706   R. Howlett Anglers Sure Guide 86   This is their [sc. Fishes'] constant Course all Flie-time.
1757   J. Dyer Fleece i. 23   In teizing fly-time.
1805   T. M. Harris State of Ohio 179   [They are] called ‘Buffaloe beats’, because supposed to be occasioned by the resort of those animals thither in fly-time.
1860   O. W. Holmes Professor at Breakfast-table v. 150   Would you stand still in fly-time, or would you give a kick now and then?
1897   R. M. Stuart Simpkinsville iii. 93   During the long afternoons in fly-time, no woman..would leave her comfortable home.

1706—1897(Hide quotations)


  fly-tip   n.


  fly-top   n. a top-joint used for fly-fishing.

1706   R. Howlett Anglers Sure Guide 79   The Stock [of the Rod] bored no wider than to carry a Ground-top therein, or a Flie-top.

1706—1706(Hide quotations)


  fly-tying   n.

1887   H. Cholmondeley-Pennell Mod. Impr. Fish. Tackle 23   This branch of fly-tying.

1887—1887(Hide quotations)


  fly-water   n.  (a) an infusion or decoction of flies;  (b) (see quot. 1855);  (c) water suitable for fly-fishing.

1815   W. Kirby & W. Spence Introd. Entomol. I. 306   I should have recommended..fly-water for disorders in the eyes.
1855   J. Ogilvie Suppl. Imperial Dict.   Fly-water, a solution of arsenic, or decoction of quassia-bark, for killing flies.
1904   W. M. Gallichan Fishing & Trav. Spain 59   There is some pretty fly water close to the railway-bridge.

1815—1904(Hide quotations)


  fly-weevil   n. U.S. the common grain-moth ( Gelechia cerealella) ( Cent. Dict.).

1789   L. Carter in Trans. Amer. Soc. 1 274 (title)    Observations concerning the Fly-weevil that destroys the Wheat.

1789—1789(Hide quotations)


  fly-weight   n. Boxing a weight of 8 stone or less; a pugilist of such a weight; also transferred.

1911   Boxing 9 Sept. 454/3   Kleber reigns over the fly-wt championship.
1913   J. G. B. Lynch Compl. Amat. Boxer 234   Championships. Standard Weights. Fly Weight, 8 stone and under.
1914   J. G. B. Lynch Promin. Pugilists 158   He [sc. Jimmy Wilde] is far below the fly-weight limit.
1944   W. H. Auden For Time Being (1945) 12   A fly-weight hermit in a dream Of gardens.
1955   Times 12 May 4/3   They fell behind again when Gnr. Lloyd was beaten in one round by the opposing flyweight.

1911—1955(Hide quotations)


  fly-whisk   n. an instrument for driving away flies.

1838   E. W. Lane in tr. Thousand & One Nights (1839) I. iii. Notes 132   A kind of fly-whisk made of palm-leaves.
1930   E. Waugh Labels iii. 65   He lunged out with a spanner and rapped an old man on the knuckles who was trying to sell us a fly-whisk.
a1953   D. Thomas Under Milk Wood (1954) 52   Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard belches in a teeny hanky and chases the sunlight with a flywhisk.
1963   W. Soyinka Lion & Jewel 25   Fly~whisk and whisky.

1838—1963(Hide quotations)


  fly-wing   n.  (a) the wing of a fly;  (b) Bookbinding (see quot.).

a1500  (a1460)    Towneley Plays (1994) I. xxi. 255   He settys not a fle-wyng Bi Syr Cesar full euen.
1924   Notes & Queries 147 398   The word ‘fly-wing’ means the lettering piece, made of very thin leather, which is stuck on the back of the volume.

a1500—1924(Hide quotations)


  fly-wire n. screening to exclude flies, esp. fly-wire door.

1952   ‘N. Shute’ Far Country v. 140   The house itself had deep verandas on two sides and fly~wire doors.
1969   Southerly 29 305   I..pushed open the fly-wire door then walked into the kitchen.

1952—1969(Hide quotations)

 b. In various plant-names.

  fly-agaric   n. Agaricus muscarius = fly-bane n. 1(c).

1788   J. Bolton Hist. Fungusses Halifax I. 27   Fly Agaric... The root is large, and bulb-shaped.
1866   J. Lindley & T. Moore Treasury Bot.   Fly-agaric.

1788—1866(Hide quotations)


  fly-dod   n. ragwort ( Senecio Jacobæa).

1826   R. Wilbraham Attempt Gloss. Cheshire   Fly-dod..is usually covered with a dusky yellow fly.

1826—1826(Hide quotations)


  fly-flower   n. (see quot. 1878).

1640   J. Parkinson Theatrum Botanicum 1351   Orchis Myodes minor, the lesser Flye flower.
1878   J. Britten & R. Holland Dict. Eng. Plant-names   Fly Flowers, (1) All species of Orchis except O. mascula—Glou... (2) Prunella vulgaris—Glou.

1640—1878(Hide quotations)


  fly-honeysuckle   n.  (a) a variety of honeysuckle ( Lonicera Xylosteum);  (b) a species of Halleria.

1788   Chambers's Cycl. (new ed.)    Halleria..is called by some gardeners the African fly-honeysuckle, from its resemblance to the upright or fly-honeysuckle.
1819   A. Rees Cycl. XIV   Fly-honeysuckle.
1861   P. Lankester Wild Flowers 71   Lonicera Xylosteum, the Fly or Upright Honey-suckle.
1890   Chambers's Encycl. V. 763   The Fly Honeysuckle, Lonicera Xylosteum, is an erect shrub..common in shrubberies.

1788—1890(Hide quotations)


  fly-orchid   n.


  fly-orchis   n. a name for Ophrys muscifera.

1578   H. Lyte tr. R. Dodoens Niewe Herball ii. lvi. 222   We may call it in English properly flie Orchis, bycause al the kindes of Serapias Orchis, haue in all their floures the..likenesse of one kinde of flie or other.
1841   S. Maunder Sci. & Lit. Treasury   Fly-orchis, in botany, the Orchis muscifera.

1578—1841(Hide quotations)


  fly-poison   n. (see quots.).

1866   J. Lindley & T. Moore Treasury Bot.   Fly-poison, Amianthium muscætoxicum.

1866—1866(Hide quotations)


  fly-wort   n. (see quots.).

1753   Chambers's Cycl. Suppl. App.   Fly-wort, in botany, a name by which some call the lychnis of authors.
1866   J. Lindley & T. Moore Treasury Bot.   Fly-wort, a name applied to those species of Catasetum formerly called Myanthus.

1753—1866(Hide quotations)