Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.


But they might as well have been girls; there wasn't any flirting or nonsense of that sort, Paula.

Sometimes a man's unsuspicion is wiser, and Harkless knew that she was not flirting with him.

And away her ladyship tripped, flirting her perfumed fan as she went.

And I flirting with little Yankee girls, and teaching them to swim!

She decidedly would not have liked it had it ever occurred to her that the man was flirting with her.

Lady Susanna had accused her of flirting with the man, and that she had told to him.

"Laughing and flirting with the new bass is not practice," returned Papa.

You have accused me of flirting; and how am I to understand that, I who never flirted?

For the same reason, there was never any approach to flirting between them.

Your son and she were—flirting, to say the least of it, three weeks ago.


1550s, originally "to turn up one's nose, sneer at," then "to rap or flick, as with the fingers" (1560s). The noun is first attested 1540s, from the verb, with the meaning "stroke of wit." It's possible that the original word was imitative, along the lines of flip (v.), but there seems to be some influence from flit, such as in the flirt sense of "to move in short, quick flights," attested from 1580s.

Meanwhile flirt (n.) had come to mean "a pert young hussey" [Johnson] by 1560s, and Shakespeare has flirt-gill (i.e. Jill) "a woman of light or loose behavior," while flirtgig was a 17c. Yorkshire dialect word for "a giddy, flighty girl." All or any of these could have fed into the main modern verbal sense of "play at courtship" (1777), which also could have grown naturally from the earlier meaning "to flit inconstantly from object to object" (1570s), perhaps influenced by Old French fleureter "talk sweet nonsense," also "to touch a thing in passing," diminutive of fleur "flower" and metaphoric of bees skimming from flower to flower.

The noun meaning "person who flirts" is from 1732. The English word also is possibly related to East Frisian flirt "a flick or light blow," and flirtje "a giddy girl." French flirter "to flirt" is a 19c. borrowing from English. Related: Flirted; flirting.



Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.