early 14c., "a flake" (of snow), also in Middle English "a spark of fire; a splinter," from Old Norse flaga "stone slab, layer of stone" (see flag (n.2)), perhaps used here in an extended sense. Old English had floh stanes, but the Middle English form suggests a Scandinavian origin. "The close resemblance in sense between flaw and flake is noteworthy" [OED]. Sense of "defect, fault" first recorded 1580s, first of character, later (c. 1600) of material things; probably via notion of a "fragment" broken off.
word-forming element meaning "lacking, cannot be, does not," from Old English -leas, from leas "free (from), devoid (of), false, feigned," from Proto-Germanic *lausaz (cognates: Dutch -loos, German -los "-less," Old Norse lauss "loose, free, vacant, dissolute," Middle Dutch los, German los "loose, free," Gothic laus "empty, vain"), from PIE root *leu- "to loosen, divide, cut apart." Related to loose and lease.