from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To shrink back in fear; cower.
  • noun Any of various primarily ground-dwelling birds of the genus Coturnix, especially C. coturnix, small in size and having mottled brown plumage and a short tail.
  • noun Any of various similar or related birds of the Americas, such as the bobwhite or the California quail.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To curdle; coagulate.
  • To begin to die; decline; fade; wither.
  • To lose heart or courage; shrink before danger or difficulty; flinch; cower; tremble.
  • To slacken.
  • To quell; subdue; overpower; intimidate; terrify.
  • noun The mountain quail, Oreortyx pictus, of the western United States: so named from its bright marking of white and chestnut.
  • noun An Australian hemipod, or button-quail, Turnix varius.
  • noun A small gallinaceous bird of the Old World, related to the partridge, and belonging to the genus Coturnix.
  • noun One of the various small gallinaceous birds more or less closely resembling the quail proper: loosely applied, with or without a qualifying term, especially in the United States, to all the species of Ortyx or Colinus, Lophortyx, Oreortyx, Callipepla, Cyrtonyx, and other genera of American Ortyginæ or Odontophorinæ.
  • noun A prostitute. Also called plover.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb obsolete To curdle; to coagulate, as milk.
  • transitive verb obsolete To cause to fail in spirit or power; to quell; to crush; to subdue.
  • intransitive verb obsolete To die; to perish; hence, to wither; to fade.
  • intransitive verb To become quelled; to become cast down; to sink under trial or apprehension of danger; to lose the spirit and power of resistance; to lose heart; to give way; to shrink; to cower.
  • noun (Zoöl.) Any gallinaceous bird belonging to Coturnix and several allied genera of the Old World, especially the common European quail (Coturnix communis), the rain quail (Coturnix Coromandelica) of India, the stubble quail (Coturnix pectoralis), and the Australian swamp quail (Synoicus australis).
  • noun (Zoöl.) Any one of several American partridges belonging to Colinus, Callipepla, and allied genera, especially the bobwhite (called Virginia quail, and Maryland quail), and the California quail (Calipepla Californica).
  • noun (Zoöl.) Any one of numerous species of Turnix and allied genera, native of the Old World, as the Australian painted quail (Turnix varius). See Turnix.
  • noun obsolete A prostitute; -- so called because the quail was thought to be a very amorous bird.
  • noun (Zoöl.) a small Asiatic quail-like bird of the genus Turnix, as Turnix taigoor, a black-breasted species, and the hill bustard quail (Turnix ocellatus). See Turnix.
  • noun (Zoöl.) one of several small Asiatic species of Turnix, as Turnix Sykesii, which is said to be the smallest game bird of India.
  • noun See under Mountain.
  • noun a call or pipe for alluring quails into a net or within range.
  • noun (Zoöl.) any one of several American ground pigeons belonging to Geotrygon and allied genera.
  • noun (Zoöl.) the New Zealand sparrow hawk (Hieracidea Novæ-Hollandiæ).
  • noun See Quail call, above.
  • noun (Zoöl.) the dowitcher, or red-breasted snipe; -- called also robin snipe, and brown snipe.
  • noun (Zoöl.), [Local, U. S.] the turnstone.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun 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.

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

  • noun flesh of quail; suitable for roasting or broiling if young; otherwise must be braised
  • noun small gallinaceous game birds
  • verb draw back, as with fear or pain


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

[Middle English quailen, to give way, probably from Middle Dutch quelen, to suffer, be ill; see gwelə- in Indo-European roots.]

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

[Middle English quaille, from Old French, perhaps from Vulgar Latin *coacula, of imitative origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Origin uncertain; perhaps compare Middle Dutch queilen.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English quaille, quaile, from Anglo-Norman quaille, from Old Dutch *kwakila (compare West Flemish kwakkel), blend of *kwak ‘quack’ and Proto-Germanic *hwahtilō ‘quail’ (compare Dutch dialect wachtel, German Wachtel), 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 (ortýki), Persian vartij’, Sanskrit वर्तका (vartaka)).


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  • I like it as a verb - he quailed under the massive guard's relentless attack.

    I also like this reference to an old expression I've never heard of, "hot as a quail" -

    E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.


    Some are cool as a cucumber, others hot as a quail.

    September 27, 2007

  • I like it as a verb, too, and as a meal. Yum.

    September 27, 2007

  • "The quail is the sweetest and nicest of game birds. It is an act of ignorance to serve it in any other way but roasted." - French gastronome Brillat-Savarin

    September 24, 2009

  • "The truth is that, in this house we are all, in our own way, scared of the Rebekah Brookses of this world. It is almost laughable that we sit here in Parliament, the central institution of our sacred democracy – among us are some of the most powerful people in the land – yet we are scared of the power that Rebekah Brooks wields without a jot of responsibility or accountability. The barons of the media, with their red-topped assassins, are the biggest beasts in the modern jungle. They have no predators. They are untouchable. They laugh at the law; they sneer at Parliament. They have the power to hurt us, and they do, with gusto and precision, with joy and criminality. Prime Ministers quail before them, and that is how they like it."

    - Tom Watson, quoted in Dial M for Murdoch: into the court of the Sun King, Independent Australia, 11 March 2013.

    March 12, 2013

  • Craig always claimed to be a fearless outdoorsman, but when the thunderstorm engulfed the valley, he quailed at the thought of leaving the safety of his cabin.

    October 29, 2017