dog whistle

variants: or less commonly dog-whistle \ ˈdȯg-​ˈ(h)wi-​səl How to pronounce dog whistle (audio) \

Definition of dog whistle

1 : a whistle to call or direct a dog especially : one sounding at a frequency inaudible to the human ear
2 politics : an expression or statement that has a secondary meaning intended to be understood only by a particular group of people Democrats and liberals sometimes have gone to ridiculous lengths to portray speech by Republicans and conservatives as dog whistles responsible for inciting unstable people to carry out violent acts …The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch … habitually inserts dog-whistles into his speeches to motivate evangelical voters.The Economist often used before another noun That is the fundamental perversity of 'dog whistle politics', whereby political parties send coded messages that will be heard one way by their core supporters and another way altogether by others.— Robert E. Goodin

Examples of dog whistle in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web If $15 million was a dog whistle, $900 million is a bullhorn. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, 13 Apr. 2022 The fair was where Ronald Reagan launched his presidential campaign with a speech about states’ rights, a loud dog whistle not far in distance or time from the Freedom Summer murders. Ko Bragg, The Atlantic, 7 Apr. 2022 That’s a good dog whistle for a home audience awaiting any excuse to tune out; not so great for the members of the actual music industry that might deserve a moment in the spotlight. Chris Willman, Variety, 4 Apr. 2022 For the Christian right in the United States and Europe, Putin’s messaging is not so much a dog whistle as a blaring siren. Washington Post, 23 Mar. 2022 Democrats see the conservative focus on critical race theory as part of a long lineage of racist dog whistle politics, a tactic that has often put their party, which relies on a multiracial coalition, on defense. Los Angeles Times, 8 Nov. 2021 Jeff Roe, a Republican strategist who worked for Youngkin, rejected the accusation that talking about critical race theory was a dog whistle. Los Angeles Times, 8 Nov. 2021 Fear was another racist dog whistle used by defense attorneys, who highlighted the worries prompted by a string of unreported crimes in the neighborhood. Nicole Chavez, CNN, 25 Nov. 2021 Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia governor’s race, Chris Megerian, Melanie Mason and I reported on how Democrats were decrying Republicans’ focus on critical race theory as a racist dog whistle. Los Angeles Times, 10 Nov. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dog whistle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of dog whistle

1801, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of dog whistle was in 1801

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Dictionary Entries Near dog whistle

dog whelk

dog whistle


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Statistics for dog whistle

Last Updated

30 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Dog whistle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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