pin·​wheel | \ ˈpin-ˌ(h)wēl How to pronounce pinwheel (audio) \

Definition of pinwheel

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a fireworks device in the form of a revolving wheel of colored fire
2 : a toy consisting of lightweight vanes that revolve at the end of a stick
3 : something (such as a galaxy) shaped like a pinwheel


pinwheeled; pinwheeling; pinwheels

Definition of pinwheel (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to move like a pinwheel

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Synonyms for pinwheel

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of pinwheel in a Sentence

Verb the kayaker had got sucked into the whirlpool, and his kayak was pinwheeling helplessly
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Contrary to popular myth, owls can’t spin their heads in a full circle like a feathered pinwheel. René A. Guzman,, "The barred owls common around San Antonio are a real hoot," 1 Dec. 2020 When a datura bud opens into a flower, its five petals unfold in a spiral that looks almost exactly like the five-armed pinwheel in Pinwheel Cave. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Rock art in a California cave was a visual guide to hallucinogenic plants," 24 Nov. 2020 Because a pinwheel-like design painted on the cave resembles the sacred perennial flower Datura wrightii, which was used by Native Californians to induce trance states, the scientists explored whether the quids might have contained that flower. Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, "Stoned Age: Native American art confirms hallucinogenic drug use," 24 Nov. 2020 The cave is home to a striking image of a pinwheel thought to represent the distinctive shape of the sacred datura flower, or Datura wrightii. Katie Hunt, CNN, "Native Californians got high on hallucinogenic plants and painted rock art, study finds," 23 Nov. 2020 The star system, which looks like a cosmic pinwheel, is located 8,000 light-years from Earth. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "This rare 'peacock' star system in our galaxy is doomed to explode," 12 Oct. 2020 This handheld spiky pinwheel can be used all over the body. Jamie J. Leclaire, SELF, "9 Sensation Play Products You Should Try, According to Sex Educators," 30 Sep. 2020 And since the new update is centered around memories, Google also updated its app icon to resemble a pinwheel — clearly inspired by childhood, youth, and nostalgia. Andrea Romano, Travel + Leisure, "Google Redesigned Its Photo App so It’s Easier Than Ever to Find Your Favorite Memories," 9 July 2020 But the Oregon Health Authority is at the center of the bureaucratic pinwheel that is Oregon’s coronavirus response. oregonlive, "Oregon braces for possible coronavirus epidemic," 29 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Some of the outer rain bands and a few storms from Beta will pinwheel into the area from the east and southeast. Dallas News, "NBC 5 Forecast - A Sun-sational Sunday Ahead!," 20 Sep. 2020 Observations of pinwheeling galaxies suggested that scaffolds of invisible matter held their stars together, while a repulsive form of energy drove galaxies apart. Quanta Magazine, "How Ancient Light Reveals the Universe’s Contents," 28 Jan. 2020 The man in the white vest pinwheeled his arms, ushering volunteers through the pick-up line outside the Salvation Army Community Center on Fourth Street with military precision. Lizzie Johnson,, "Warriors for the win: Salvation Army volunteers feed SF’s bed-bound on Christmas," 25 Dec. 2019 Some upper-level energy may move through the region, pinwheeling from the New England storm. Washington Post, "D.C.-area forecast: Breezy and cool today, with some patchy frost possible in outer suburbs tonight," 18 Oct. 2019 According to the space agency, IC 2051 is a spiral galaxy, noticeable in its whirling, pinwheeling arms and a bar of stars cutting through its center. Fox News, "NASA's Hubble spots stunning 'pinwheeling' galaxy," 23 Dec. 2019 The result is a vertiginous nausea that sends me pinwheeling toward the bathroom, though the men still breathe at a decibel level loud enough to permeate its heavy chestnut door. Barrett Swanson, Harper's magazine, "Men at Work," 28 Oct. 2019 Neo-Romantic melodies in the strings danced opposite pinwheeling exclamations in the woodwinds, and sharp ice replaced all the usual subtle sweetness of Elizabeth Rowe’s flute., "Guest conductor Dima Slobodeniouk leads the BSO to walk less traveled paths - The Boston Globe," 12 Oct. 2019 Behind them was a coal black foal, who pinwheeled his legs under the water, swimming like a seal after his mother. Sarah Maslin Nir, New York Times, "Following in the Wake of a Storybook Pony," 8 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pinwheel.' 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 pinwheel


1765, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1907, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for pinwheel

Time Traveler

The first known use of pinwheel was in 1765

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Cite this Entry

“Pinwheel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for pinwheel



English Language Learners Definition of pinwheel

: a toy that has a set of thin blades that are arranged like a fan on the end of a stick and that spin like a wheel when air is blown on them
: a type of firework that spins like a wheel


pin·​wheel | \ ˈpin-ˌhwēl How to pronounce pinwheel (audio) , -ˌwēl \

Kids Definition of pinwheel

: a toy with fanlike blades at the end of a stick that spin in the wind

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