Old English fleogende "flying, winged," present participle of fly (v.1). Flying buttress is from 1660s; flying fish is from 1510s. Flying saucer first attested 1947, though the image of saucers for unidentified flying objects is from at least 1880s. Flying Dutchman, ghost ship off the Cape of Good Hope, attested since 1803 [John Leyden, "Scenes of Infancy," who describes it as "a common superstition of mariners"]. Flying colors (1706) probably is from the image of a naval vessel with the national flag bravely displayed.