Old English floterian "to flutter (of birds), to fly before, flicker, float to and fro, be tossed by waves," frequentative of flotian "to float" (see float (v.)). Meaning "throw (someone) into confusion" is from 1660s. Related: Fluttered; fluttering. As a noun, "quick, irregular motion," from 1640s; meaning "state of excitement" is 1740s. Flutterpate "flighty person" is from 1894.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to flow."
It forms all or part of: fletcher; fledge; flee; fleet (adj.) "swift;" fleet (n.) "group of ships under one command;" fleet (v.) "to float, drift; flow, run;" fleeting; flight (n.1) "act of flying;" flight (n.2) "act of fleeing;" flit; float; flood; flotsam; flotilla; flow; flue; flugelhorn; fluster; flutter; fly (v.1) "move through the air with wings;" fly (n.) "winged insect;" fowl; plover; Pluto; plutocracy; pluvial; pneumo-; pneumonia; pneumonic; pulmonary.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit plavate "navigates, swims;" Greek plynein "to wash," plein "to navigate," ploein "to float, swim," plotos "floating, navigable," pyelos "trough, basin;" Latin plovere "to rain," pluvius "rainy;" Armenian luanam "I wash;" Old English flowan "to flow;" Old Church Slavonic plovo "to flow, navigate;" Lithuanian pilu, pilti "to pour out," plauju, plauti "to swim, rinse."
1540s, "flap about loosely," probably a later variant of Middle English flakken, flacken "to flap, flutter" (late 14c.), which probably is from Old Norse flaka "to flicker, flutter, hang loose," itself perhaps imitative of something flapping lazily in the wind. The sense of "go limp, droop, become languid" is attested by 1610s. Related: Flagged; flagging.
c. 1300, "to contend with blows or arguments," from Old French batre "to hit, beat, strike" (11c., Modern French battre), from Late Latin battere, from Latin batuere "to beat, knock" (see batter (v.)). In falconry, "to beat the wings impatiently and flutter away from the perch." The figurative sense of "flutter downward" is attested from 1580s.
"to move the eyelids," 1847, American English, an extended sense from the earlier meaning "flutter (the wings) as a hawk" (1610s), a variant of bate (v.2). Related: Batted; batting.
"to beat or pulse rapidly, to throb," 1620s, from Latin palpitatus, past participle of palpitare "to throb, flutter" (see palpable). Related: Palpitated; palpitating.
"whimsical device, trifle," 1520s, of unknown origin; perhaps from Scandinavian (compare Old Norse hvima "to let the eyes wander," Norwegian kvima "to flutter"), or else an arbitrary native formation (compare flim-flam).
"flicker or flutter as if blown by the wind," 1660s; see whiff. The noun meaning "something light or insignificant" (1670s) is preserved in whiffle-ball (1931).
"fly with back-and-forth motion," 1540s, from flit with frequentative suffix. Flitter-mouse (1540s) is occasionally used in English, in imitation of German fledermaus "bat," from Old High German fledaron "to bat, to flutter." Related: Flittered; flittering. As a noun, from 1892.