\ ˈhwī(-ə)l , ˈwī(-ə)l\

Definition of while

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 : a period of time especially when short and marked by the occurrence of an action or a condition : time stay here for a while
2 : the time and effort used (as in the performance of an action) : trouble worth your while



Definition of while (Entry 2 of 4)

1a : during the time that take a nap while I'm out
b : as long as while there's life there's hope
2a : when on the other hand : whereas easy for an expert, while it is dangerous for a novice
b : in spite of the fact that : although while respected, he is not liked
3 : similarly and at the same time that while the book will be welcomed by scholars, it will make an immediate appeal to the general readerBritish Book News



Definition of while (Entry 3 of 4)

dialectal British
: until


whiled; whiling

Definition of while (Entry 4 of 4)

transitive verb

: to cause to pass especially without boredom or in a pleasant manner usually used with away while away the time

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Synonyms for while

Synonyms: Noun

bit, space, spell, stretch

Synonyms: Conjunction

as, so long as, when, whilst [chiefly British]

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Examples of while in a Sentence


It took them a while to find out what was causing the problem. we stayed at the fair for a while longer


Someone called while you were out. You can get the photos developed while you wait. The phone rang while I was doing the dishes. They met while they were in college. Can I get you anything while I'm at the store? He made a comment that, while well-intentioned, still hurt my feelings. While I think some parts of the plan are good, I don't think it's practical.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Basically, prepare for your home to be your base of operations for a while. Korin Miller, SELF, "How to Protect Yourself in Extremely Cold Weather," 29 Jan. 2019 There were once, after all, rumors of a three-quel for a while now, but those hopes and dreams are no more. Natasha Reda, Glamour, "Sarah Jessica Parker Just Brought Carrie Bradshaw Back, and We're So Here for It," 20 Jan. 2019 The author interviewed each subject at great length while also, where possible, talking to their spouses, children and friends. Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, WSJ, "‘Last Boat Out of Shanghai’ Review: Gone With the Wind," 18 Jan. 2019 Adding a giant drill that is both heavy in flight and requires energy of its own while in use only exacerbates the problem. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The Drones Are Drilling Holes Now," 9 Jan. 2019 Bowen the younger, now 34, also worked a while for Jones. Luke Leitch, Vogue, "JordanLuca: Sex, Streetwear, and an Assist From Hatmaker Stephen Jones," 8 Jan. 2019 Here's to the new class of Congresswomen getting the job done—and dressing unapologetically badass while doing so. Lauren Alexis Fisher, Harper's BAZAAR, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Swearing-In Outfit Was a Nod to Suffragettes and Bronx Girls," 4 Jan. 2019 Leave it to Selena Gomez to look perfectly chic and cozy while also sending a powerful message with her clothes. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Selena Gomez Wears "Choose Empathy" Sweatshirt to Pilates Class," 30 Dec. 2018 As Candace and Kirk both said on Instagram, the two were competing against one another while go-karting. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "See Candace Cameron Bure's Hand Injury Days After Being Hospitalized," 18 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The couple, who became engaged last month, were seen getting emotional during a bike ride and while out at a restaurant. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin Were Seen Crying Together and Now We're Crying," 7 Aug. 2018 Few who are well versed in tarot would mistake a serious deck as a fun way to while away the afternoon. Jane Stern, Town & Country, "My Love of Tarot Is a Family Tradition," 24 Sep. 2018 Floating along the lazy Russian River in an inner tube accessorized with an inflatable pink flamingo cooler is a perfect way to while away the summer. Catherine Bigelow, SFChronicle.com, "Summer’s R&R hot spots from SF’s social set," 10 July 2018 Other safety tips while away include buying a timer for lights and setting them to turn off and on at random, or asking neighbors or friends to occasionally park in the driveway. Alex Riggins, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Sheriff's Department offers free home checks for residents on vacation," 5 July 2018 The city exists within a single building; there are single rooms with no locks, each with a bed, a dresser, and — if the resident’s family provides one — a television set with which to while away the hours. Leslie Kendall Dye, Longreads, "City on a Hill," 23 June 2018 Another name Schmitz mentioned was Maryland's Kevin Huerter, who while known as a shooter, can play some point guard. Andrew Hussey, Indianapolis Star, "ESPN NBA Draft analysts discuss Pacers draft options," 18 June 2018 Trump has defied all modern precedent by retaining control of his family company while serving as president, allowing interests domestic or foreign to curry favor by enriching him personally. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "The Michael Cohen Bribery Scandal Is Now a Trump Bribery Scandal," 16 May 2018 In a separate instance, Rourke sought payment for 16 hours of sick leave that he also was not entitled to while on leave, officials said. Peter Krouse, cleveland.com, "Cuyahoga County improperly pays IT director who is on leave, then corrects mistake," 26 Apr. 2018

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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined above


1635, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for while


Middle English, from Old English hwīl; akin to Old High German hwīla time, Latin quies rest, quiet

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Statistics for while

Last Updated

4 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for while

The first known use of while was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for while



English Language Learners Definition of while

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a period of time



English Language Learners Definition of while (Entry 2 of 2)

: during the time that
used to make a statement that describes how two people, groups, etc., are different
: in spite of the fact that


\ ˈhwīl , ˈwīl\

Kids Definition of while

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : during the time that We met while in college.
2 : although sense 1 While famous, the book is seldom read.



Kids Definition of while (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a period of time Let's rest a while.
2 : time and effort used in doing something I'll make it worth your while to help out.


whiled; whiling

Kids Definition of while (Entry 3 of 3)

: to cause to pass especially in a pleasant way We whiled away the time with games.

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More from Merriam-Webster on while

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with while

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for while

Spanish Central: Translation of while

Nglish: Translation of while for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of while for Arabic Speakers

Comments on while

What made you want to look up while? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


esteemed in general opinion

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