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 nounThat 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 The questions lead to refreshingly blunt conversations about everything from dog whistles to how race affects dating. Eliana Dockterman, Time, "The 50 Best Podcasts to Listen to Right Now," 20 Dec. 2019 Back then, though, the communication tool of choice was the dog whistle, rather than Twitter and the Presidential podium. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "Donald Trump and Lax Gun Laws Are Tearing America Apart," 7 Aug. 2019 To call it a dog whistle disrespects canine subtlety. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "Why the US probably won’t pass stronger gun control laws," 10 Aug. 2019 Where conservatives in the past have employed dog whistle rhetoric to mask the manipulation of racial tensions, Trump’s itchy Twitter fingers dole out something more like smart missile rhetoric. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, The New Republic, "The Destructive Politics of White Amnesia," 6 Aug. 2019 To be serious for a moment, what Trump tweeted wasn’t a dog whistle. Kevin Cullen,, "In a confrontation with Trump, my money’s on Ayanna Pressley," 17 July 2019 This marvelous piece of history is now a dog whistle to round up other racists and religious persecutors. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Defending culling of geese; Culling angers Canadian; If the shoe fits…; Give that team a raise (7/10/19)," 10 July 2019 Politicians whose demands for justice reverberate as racist dog whistles. Alex Bhattacharji, Town & Country, "When They See Us," 8 May 2019 As such, some organizations on Facebook use coy in-jokes and other far-right dog whistling tactics to circumvent Facebook’s algorithmic filters. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Hundreds of active and former police officers are part of extremist Facebook groups," 14 June 2019

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.

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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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Last Updated

27 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dog whistle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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