a. The soft tissue of the body of a vertebrate, covering the bones and consisting mainly of skeletal muscle and fat: thought the boy needed some more flesh on his bones.
b. Such tissue of an animal, used as food: flesh of a cow; fish with white flesh.
c. The surface or skin of the human body: goosebumps on my flesh.
d. Fatty tissue: "a woman of wide and abundant flesh" (A.S. Byatt).
2. Botany The pulpy, usually edible part of a fruit or vegetable.
a. The human body: "the thousand natural shocks / That flesh is heir to" (Shakespeare).
b. Sensual appetites: gratification of the flesh.
4. Substance; reality: "The maritime strategy has an all but unstoppable institutional momentum behind it ... that has given force and flesh to the theory" (Jack Beatty).
v. fleshed, flesh·ing, flesh·es
1. To give substance or detail to; fill out. Often used with out: fleshed out the novel with a subplot.
2. To clean (a hide) of adhering flesh.
3. To encourage (a falcon, for example) to participate in the chase by feeding it flesh from a kill.
4. To plunge or thrust (a weapon) into flesh.
5. Archaic To inure (troops, for instance) to battle or bloodshed.
To become plump or fleshy; gain weight.
go the way of all flesh
1. To die.
2. To come to an end.
in the flesh
2. In person; present.
[Middle English, from Old English flǣsc.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.