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In baseball, a pitch that is not hit very hard and, as a result, travels just past the infield. The imagery alludes to a quail that has just been shot and thus falls out of the sky. Smith hit a dying quail just past second base that allowed the runner to score.
quail at (something)
To become fearful of, nervous about, or averse to something; to avoid or shrink from something. I know that David quails at the thought of flying in an airplane. We quailed at the notion of shutting down the company that our great-great-grandfather created. We can't have you leading the team if you're going to quail at the first sign of difficulty.
quail before (someone or something)
To tremble with fear before someone or something; to cower or whimper in the face of someone or something. The headmistress at my old school was so menacing—we all quailed before her whenever we were called to her office. The people of this country will quail before the might of our army.
quail with (an emotion)
To shrink back, cower, or tremble as a result of some intense emotion, especially fear. The sight would make even the most stalwart quail with terror. My heart quailed with shame as I thought over what had happened.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
quail at someone or something
to show fear at someone or something; to shrink from someone or something. Todd quailed at the thought of what he had to do. The students quailed at the teacher who had been so hard on them in the past.
quail before someone or something
to cower before or at the threat of someone or something. The students quailed before the angry principal. They quailed before the thought of punishment.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
n. any girl or woman, especially considered sexually. (Crude.) Look at that cute little quail over there.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.