Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

fly - definition and synonyms

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Thesaurus diagram

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

verb     fly pronunciation in British English
Word Forms
present tense
present participleflying
past tenseflew
past participleflown
  1. 1
    [intransitive] to travel by plane

    Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly.

    fly from/to:

    I flew from London to Amsterdam to meet the other members of the group.

    fly into:

    We flew into Heathrow on Monday evening.

    1. a.
      [intransitive] if a plane flies, it moves through the air

      The bombers were flying over enemy territory.

    2. b.
      [transitive] to take people or goods somewhere by plane
      fly someone/something in/out:

      Helicopters are helping to fly out survivors.

    3. c.
      [intransitive/transitive] to control a plane when it is in the air

      He had always wanted to learn to fly.

      My grandfather flew bombers during the war.

      a pilot who flew over 100 missions

    4. d.
      [transitive] to use a particular company or travel in a particular class when you are travelling by plane

      I’m flying British Airways this time.

    5. e.
      [transitive] to go across an area of water or land in a plane

      How long does it take to fly the Atlantic?

  2. 2
    [intransitive] to use wings to move through the air

    Not all insects can fly.

    fly past/over/up etc:

    A huge eagle came flying past.

    White gulls flew over our heads.

    Synonyms and related words
    Synonyms and related words
    See also crow
  3. 3
    [intransitive] to move very fast through the air
    fly past/by/towards/into:

    A bullet flew past his head.

    Pieces of glass and concrete were flying in all directions.

    1. a.
      to move or go very quickly
      fly into/along/through/out:

      We flew into each other’s arms.

      Sheila flew along the corridor to the control room.

      fly open:

      The door flew open and the head teacher marched in.

  4. 4
    [intransitive] to be blown around in the wind

    She stood on the clifftop, her grey hair flying in the wind.

  5. 5
    [intransitive/transitive] if you fly a flag, or if it flies, it is on the top of a pole or building

    Some of the buildings were flying the French flag.

    Every American school has a national flag flying outside it.

    1. a.
      if you fly a kite, or if it flies, you hold it on the end of a long piece of string and it blows about in the wind
  6. 6
    [intransitive] if time flies, it seems to pass very quickly
    fly by:

    Six months flew by, and it was time to come home again.

    fly past:

    The weekend with her family seemed to fly past.

  7. 7
    [intransitive] if ideas or opinions are flying, people are talking about them a lot

    The fire was so suspicious that rumours started flying almost immediately.

    fly around/about:

    There are a lot of wild theories flying around.

  8. 8
    [intransitive] informal if an idea or a statement flies, people accept or approve of it

    It’s a great idea, but will it fly?

  9. 9
    [intransitive/transitive] formal to leave a place suddenly in order to escape from a difficult or dangerous situation
    fly the country:

    Thousands flew the country when he came to power.

phrasal verbs

  • Facebook
  • Twitter


a lifestyle focussing on simple pleasures such as comfort and cosiness in the home, and spending time with friends and family

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play