verb (used without object)

  1. to move along in a stream: The river flowed slowly to the sea.
  2. to circulate: blood flowing through one’s veins.
  3. to stream or well forth: Warmth flows from the sun.
  4. to issue or proceed from a source: Orders flowed from the office.
  5. to menstruate.
  6. to come or go as in a stream: A constant stream of humanity flowed by.
  7. to proceed continuously and smoothly: Melody flowed from the violin.
  8. to hang loosely at full length: Her hair flowed over her shoulders.
  9. to abound in something: The tavern flowed with wine.
  10. to rise and advance, as the tide (opposed to ebb).

verb (used with object)

  1. to cause or permit to flow: to flow paint on a wall before brushing.
  2. to cover with water or other liquid; flood.


  1. an act of flowing.
  2. movement in or as if in a stream.
  3. the rate of flowing.
  4. the volume of fluid that flows through a passage of any given section during a unit of time: Oil flow of the well was 500 barrels a day.
  5. something that flows; stream.
  6. an outpouring or discharge of something, as in a stream: a flow of blood.
  7. menstruation.
  8. an overflowing; flood.
  9. the rise of the tide (opposed to ebb).
  10. Machinery. progressive distortion of a metal object under continuous service at high temperature.
  11. Physics. the transference of energy: heat flow.

verb (mainly intr)

  1. (of liquids) to move or be conveyed as in a stream
  2. (of blood) to circulate around the body
  3. to move or progress freely as if in a streamthe crowd flowed into the building
  4. to proceed or be produced continuously and effortlesslyideas flowed from her pen
  5. to show or be marked by smooth or easy movement
  6. to hang freely or looselyher hair flowed down her back
  7. to be present in abundancewine flows at their parties
  8. an informal word for menstruate
  9. (of tide water) to advance or riseCompare ebb (def. 1)
  10. (tr) to cover or swamp with liquid; flood
  11. (of rocks such as slate) to yield to pressure without breaking so that the structure and arrangement of the constituent minerals are altered


  1. the act, rate, or manner of flowinga fast flow
  2. a continuous stream or discharge
  3. continuous progression
  4. the advancing of the tide
  5. a stream of molten or solidified lava
  6. the amount of liquid that flows in a given time
  7. an informal word for menstruation
  8. Scot
    1. a marsh or swamp
    2. an inlet or basin of the sea
    3. (capital when part of a name)Scapa Flow
  9. flow of spirits natural happiness

mid-15c., “action of flowing,” from flow (v.). Meaning “amount that flows” is from 1807. Flow chart attested from 1920.


Old English flowan “to flow, stream, issue; become liquid, melt; abound, overflow” (class VII strong verb; past tense fleow, past participle flowen), from Proto-Germanic *flo- (cf. Middle Dutch vloyen, Dutch vloeien “to flow,” Old Norse floa “to deluge,” Old High German flouwen “to rinse, wash”), probably from PIE *pleu- “flow, float” (see pluvial). The weak form predominated from 14c., but strong past participle flown is occasionally attested through 18c. Related: Flowed; flowing.


  1. To move or run smoothly with unbroken continuity.
  2. To circulate, as the blood in the body.
  3. To menstruate.


  1. The smooth motion characteristic of fluids.
  2. The volume of fluid or gas passing a given point per unit of time.
  3. Menstrual discharge.

see ebb and flow; go with the flow.

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