1. the soft substance of a human or other animal body, consisting of muscle and fat.
  2. muscular and fatty tissue.
  3. this substance or tissue in animals, viewed as an article of food, usually excluding fish and sometimes fowl; meat.
  4. fatness; weight.
  5. the body, especially as distinguished from the spirit or soul: The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
  6. the physical or animal nature of humankind as distinguished from its moral or spiritual nature: the needs of the flesh.
  7. humankind.
  8. living creatures generally.
  9. a person’s family or relatives.
  10. Botany. the soft, pulpy portion of a fruit, vegetable, etc., as distinguished from the core, skin, shell, etc.
  11. the surface of the human body; skin: A person with tender flesh should not expose it to direct sunlight.
  12. (no longer in common use; now considered offensive) flesh color.

verb (used with object)

  1. to plunge (a weapon) into the flesh.
  2. Hunting. to feed (a hound or hawk) with flesh in order to make it more eager for the chase.Compare blood(def 16).
  3. to incite and accustom (persons) to bloodshed or battle by an initial experience.
  4. to inflame the ardor or passions of by a foretaste.
  5. to overlay or cover (a skeleton or skeletal frame) with flesh or with a fleshlike substance.
  6. to give dimension, substance, or reality to (often followed by out): The playwright wrote pretty good characters, but the actors really fleshed them out.
  7. to remove adhering flesh from (hides), in leather manufacture.
  8. Archaic. to satiate with flesh or fleshly enjoyments; surfeit; glut.

Verb Phrases

  1. flesh out,
    1. to gain weight: He realized to his dismay that he had fleshed out during the months of forced inactivity.
    2. to add details to or make more complete: She fleshed out her proposal considerably before presenting it to the committee for action.
  1. in the flesh, present and alive before one’s eyes; in person: The movie star looked quite different in the flesh.
  2. pound of flesh, something that strict justice demands is due, but can only be paid with great loss or suffering to the payer.
  3. press the flesh, Informal. to shake hands, as with voters while campaigning: The senator is busy as ever pressing the flesh on the campaign trail.


  1. the soft part of the body of an animal or human, esp muscular tissue, as distinct from bone and visceraRelated adjective: sarcoid
  2. informal excess weight; fat
  3. archaic the edible tissue of animals as opposed to that of fish or, sometimes, fowl; meat
  4. the thick usually soft part of a fruit or vegetable, as distinct from the skin, core, stone, etc
  5. the human body and its physical or sensual nature as opposed to the soul or spiritRelated adjective: carnal
  6. mankind in general
  7. animate creatures in general
  8. one’s own family; kin (esp in the phrase one’s own flesh and blood)
  9. a yellowish-pink to greyish-yellow colour
  10. Christian Science belief on the physical plane which is considered erroneous, esp the belief that matter has sensation
  11. (modifier) tanning of or relating to the inner or under layer of a skin or hidea flesh split
  12. in the flesh in person; actually present
  13. make one’s flesh creep (esp of something ghostly) to frighten and horrify one
  14. press the flesh informal to shake hands, usually with large numbers of people, esp in political campaigning


  1. (tr) hunting to stimulate the hunting instinct of (hounds or falcons) by giving them small quantities of raw flesh
  2. to wound the flesh of with a weapon
  3. archaic, or poetic to accustom or incite to bloodshed or battle by initial experience
  4. tanning to remove the flesh layer of (a hide or skin)
  5. to fatten; fill out

Old English flæsc “flesh, meat,” also “near kindred” (a sense now obsolete except in phrase flesh and blood), common West and North Germanic (cf. Old Frisian flesk, Middle Low German vlees, German Fleisch “flesh,” Old Norse flesk “pork, bacon”), of uncertain origin, perhaps from Proto-Germanic *flaiskoz-.

Figurative use for “animal or physical nature of man” (Old English) is from the Bible, especially Paul’s use of Greek sarx, which yielded sense of “sensual appetites” (c.1200). Flesh-wound is from 1670s; flesh-color, the hue of “Caucasian” skin, is first recorded 1610s, described as a tint composed of “a light pink with a little yellow” [O’Neill, “Dyeing,” 1862]. An Old English poetry-word for “body” was flæsc-hama, literally “flesh-home.”


1520s, “to render (a hunting animal) eager for prey by rewarding it with flesh from a kill,” with figurative extensions, from flesh (n.). Meaning “to clothe or embody with flesh,” with figurative extensions, is from 1660s. Related: Fleshed; fleshing.


  1. The soft tissue of the body of a vertebrate, covering the bones and consisting mainly of skeletal muscle and fat.

In addition to the idioms beginning with flesh

  • flesh and blood
  • flesh out

also see:

  • go the way of all flesh
  • in person (the flesh)
  • make one’s flesh creep
  • neither fish nor fowl (flesh)
  • pound of flesh
  • press the flesh
  • spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
  • thorn in one’s flesh

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