Word of the Day


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1. a short period of activity or emotion

2. a  series of things that happen suddenly

3. a small amount of snow, rain, or leaves blown around in a twisting movement

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The etymology of flurry is uncertain. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that it may be onomatopoeic, and be suggested by words like ‘flaw’ and ‘hurry’. It appeared in English at the very end of the 17th century with the meaning of a sudden gust of wind. The meaning of a snow squall was first recorded in American English in the early 19th century. The extended meanings, 1 and 2 above, were first recorded in the early 18th and late 19th centuries respectively.


Flurry is one of a number of words whose primary or literal meaning has been overtaken in use by extended and figurative meanings. Although we still talk about flurries of snow, in particular, we are much more likely to use the word to refer either to a short period of activity or emotion, or to a series of things that happen suddenly. A look at a screenful of citations from a modern corpus of English bears this out. Less than a third of the lines refer to flurries of snow. The majority are about some kind of action, with ‘activity, ‘excitement’ and ‘speculation’ all featuring, along with other things such as ‘moves’, mostly not the physical kind. Other frequent collocates are things like articles, comments and discussions, . The most common physical acts to occur in a flurry are blows, punches and kicks. ‘Activity’ is by far the most frequent collocate, accounting for more than one seventh of the total.


“I’m very much a believer that it’s action that matters much more so than, you know, the flurry of political promises and statements and slogans that are used during political campaigns.”
(Christine Lagarde)

[On making pastry] “There’s a flurry of activity to begin with; then it’s about leaving it to rest.”
(Paul Hollywood, baker)

Related words

fit, surge, flush, rush

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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