1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Flail
FLAIL (from Lat. flagellum, a whip or scourge, but used in the Vulgate in the sense of “flail”; the word appears in Dutch vlegel, Ger. Flegel, and Fr. fléau), a farm hand-implement formerly used for threshing corn. It consists of a short thick club called a “swingle” or “swipple” attached by a rope or leather thong to a wooden handle in such a manner as to enable it to swing freely. The “flail” was a weapon used for military purposes in the middle ages. It was made in the same way as a threshing-flail but much stronger and furnished with iron spikes. It also took the form of a chain with a spiked iron ball at one end swinging free on a wooden or iron handle. This weapon was known as the “morning star” or “holy water sprinkler.” During the panic over the Popish plot in England from 1678 to 1681, clubs, known as “Protestant flails,” were carried by alarmed Protestants (see Green Ribbon Club).