\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

effort, elbow grease, exertion, expenditure, labor, pains, sweat, trouble, work

Synonyms: Conjunction

albeit, although (also altho), as, howbeit, much as, notwithstanding, though, when, whereas, 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

And didn’t Anthony join James on a very famous vacation a while ago? Charles Curtis, For The Win, "Where should Carmelo Anthony go next?," 6 July 2018 Something happened a while ago where Russia is no longer in. Jim Puzzanghera, latimes.com, "Trump brings chaos to G7 with trade threats and praise for Russia – and then backs out of joint agreement," 10 June 2018 Something happened a while ago where Russia is no longer in. Author: Jim Puzzanghera, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump leaves G-7 summit early after rattling allies with trade threats," 9 June 2018 Despite the move, France did not leave the alliance, emphasizing its commitment to its mutual defense pact while, at the same time, developing its own nuclear deterrent. David Rising, Fox News, "A look at NATO and what the alliance does, past and present," 13 July 2018 Of course, the actual Big Three have been lagging in the acclaimed-television for a while—pretty much ever since HBO, Showtime, and AMC started rolling out shows like The Sopranos, The Americans, and Breaking Bad. Angela Watercutter, WIRED, "With 112 Emmy Nominations, Netflix Officially Rules Television," 12 July 2018 Travis, who began his tenure as Dunkin’s CEO in 2009, will remain with the company and work on international development while also serving as executive chairman. Sarah Gray, Fortune, "Dunkin' Brands Names a New CEO Who Will Take Over 'Effective Immediately'," 11 July 2018 Shortly before this meeting and while on leave, authorities say Zhang had taken a trip to China with his family. Allyson Chiu, Anchorage Daily News, "Ex-Apple engineer arrested on his way to China, charged with stealing company's autonomous car secrets," 11 July 2018 Clines picked up the win on the mound and struck out six while also smashing a home run at the plate. Alex Kushel, Sun-Sentinel.com, "West Boynton Little League Intermediate 50-70 All-Stars rule state play," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Veterans can while away days on the golf course next door. Thomas Fuller, New York Times, "Violence Strikes a Veterans Program That Strove to Prevent It," 10 Mar. 2018 Bermondsey is simply buzzing with trendy bars to while away the hours in. Tom Marchant, Harper's BAZAAR, "103 Things to Do, See, Eat and Shop in London," 7 Dec. 2017

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

11 Nov 2018

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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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).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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