Definitions

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

  • intransitive verb To make a long, loud, high-pitched cry, as in grief, sorrow, or fear. synonym: cry.
  • intransitive verb To make a prolonged, high-pitched sound suggestive of a cry.
  • intransitive verb To lament over; bewail.
  • noun A long, loud, high-pitched cry, as of grief or pain.
  • noun A long, loud, high-pitched sound.
  • noun A loud, bitter protest.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • See wale.
  • To express sorrow by a mournful inarticulate vocal sound; lament; moan; cry plaintively.
  • To grieve over; lament; bemoan; bewail.
  • noun The act of lamenting aloud; wailing; a moan; a plaintive cry or sound.

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

  • noun Loud weeping; violent lamentation; wailing.
  • transitive verb obsolete To choose; to select.
  • transitive verb To lament; to bewail; to grieve over.
  • intransitive verb To express sorrow audibly; to make mournful outcry; to weep.

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

  • noun A prolonged cry, usually high-pitched, especially as of grief or anguish.
  • noun Any similar sound as of lamentation; a howl.
  • verb To cry out, as in sorrow or anguish.
  • verb To weep, lament persistently or bitterly.
  • verb To make a noise like mourning or crying.
  • verb slang (music) To perform, express emotion in an exceptionally exciting way.

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

  • noun a cry of sorrow and grief
  • verb emit long loud cries
  • verb cry weakly or softly

Etymologies

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

[Middle English wailen, probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse vāla, vǣla.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Probably from Old Norse væla

Examples

  • Allusions to Antiguan slave trading and the cultural and economic imperialism that have enriched the Bertram clan are made explicit in Patricia Rozema's 1999 film — largely in the opening and the closing credit sequence, which feature African singers in a kind of wail from the sea.

    You Oughtta Be in Pictures

  • Allusions to Antiguan slave trading and the cultural and economic imperialism that have enriched the Bertram clan are made explicit in Patricia Rozema's 1999 film — largely in the opening and the closing credit sequence, which feature African singers in a kind of wail from the sea.

    You Oughtta Be in Pictures

  • While it won't exactly match the classic high-pitched wail from the show, the producer says Gordon-Levitt will leave his own vocal stamp on Cobra Commander.

    ‘G.I. Joe’ Movie Will Reveal ‘Twisted’ Cobra Commander; Mask And Menacing Voice Included » MTV Movies Blog

  • Their every impulse, from their very first wail, is to dominate, and by dominating, compel us to become their servants in turn.

    Rebel Angel | Her Bad Mother

  • Chalmers “wales” a psalm, in every sense of the word wail, to the most doleful of dismal tunes; they read a chapter round, and he prays.

    A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains

  • I can't quite describe the level of annoyance that the bald business guru brings to a room of gentle drinkers, trying to enjoy themselves while the rest of the populace is at work, but a sudden wail from a man in the far corner, similar to that of a small dog yanked forcefully by the tail, alerts everyone that something is terribly wrong.

    Archive 2004-10-01

  • To wail is to (1) express sorrow audibly (Lament); (2) to make a soundsuggestive of a mournful cry; (3) to express dissatisfaction plaintively: tocomplain.

    Making a place in the church for a lamentation

  • We were interrupted in our reflections by a wail from the Russian courier who found himself in a curious dilemma.

    Six Red Months in Russia: An Observer's Account of Russia Before and During the Proletarian Dictatorship

  • Her potatoes spilled over the deck, while a wail from the front of the boat announced that one of the babies had bumped, too.

    The Belgian Twins

  • She's run away, said Jeanie, afraid not to be believed – and then the commotion was increased by a wail from the mother, who sank in a state of collapse into her large chair, and by the rush of Marg'ret from the kitchen, who perceiving what had happened flew to give the necessary help.

    Kirsteen: The Story of a Scotch Family Seventy Years Ago

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