Old English fleon, flion "take flight, fly from, avoid, escape" (contracted class II strong verb; past tense fleah, past participle flogen), from Proto-Germanic *fleuhanan "to run away" (source also of Old High German fliohan, Old Norse flöja, Old Frisian flia, Dutch vlieden, German fliehen, Gothic þliuhan "to flee"), probably from PIE *pleuk-, extended form of root *pleu- "to flow," but Boutkan is not convinced. Also compare fly (v.2).
Weak past tense and past participle fled emerged in Middle English under influence of Scandinavian. Old English had a transitive form, geflieman "put to flight, banish, drive away," which came in handy in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Related: fled; Fleeing.
updated on July 26, 2018