\ ˈ(h)wī(-ə)l How to pronounce while (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for while

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Conjunction

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of while in a Sentence

Noun It took them a while to find out what was causing the problem. we stayed at the fair for a while longer Conjunction 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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun All the while, McBreen was a menace on both sides of the ball, accounting for three touchdowns. oregonlive, 11 Sep. 2021 All the while, Scott Dixon eyes a seventh title, something only achieved by Mr. IndyCar himself, A.J. Foyt. Nathan Brown, The Indianapolis Star, 10 Sep. 2021 The Paradisians dance politely, all the while marveling at the grotesque display of PDA happening between Chris C. and Alana. Kristen Baldwin, EW.com, 8 Sep. 2021 Stockholm Fashion Week has come to a close, and all the while, photographer Søren Jepsen was on the ground capturing the city’s most stylish. Madeline Fass, Vogue, 7 Sep. 2021 All the while, the United States has continued to provide about $1 billion a year to the Ugandan government, in part to support the largest refugee population in Africa. Washington Post, 6 Sep. 2021 But all the while, experts warned of the highly infectious delta taking hold. Kellie Hwang, San Francisco Chronicle, 27 Aug. 2021 All the while, those same players face a sobering reality. Dan Wiederer, chicagotribune.com, 27 Aug. 2021 All the while, Evans is aware of the invisible choreography of the beach. New York Times, 26 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In one viral photo, one person stands at the gas pump filling a red gas can while another tends to more cans in the back of a white vehicle. Rick Rouan, USA TODAY, 12 May 2021 In March, Sánchez was furloughed from Made Nice and began to while away quarantine by drafting a dream menu. Hannah Goldfield, The New Yorker, 2 Oct. 2020 Some have taken to baking to while away the hours during lockdown; others embraced gardening. BostonGlobe.com, 28 May 2020 Farvardin Daliri SYDNEY, Australia — Some have taken to baking to while away the hours during coronavirus lockdown; others embraced gardening. Isabella Kwai, New York Times, 28 May 2020 The restaurant, Trade Route, offers its own take on traditional southern cuisine, and the spa provides a refreshing way to while away an hour or two. Patti Nickell, chicagotribune.com, 24 Sep. 2019 What’s overlooked is Netflix’s extreme competence at making it easy to buy and while away a lazy afternoon. Shira Ovide, New York Times, 27 Apr. 2020 Likewise, as middle-class Victorian women began to take up knitting as a hobby, the far more delicate and decorative work was deemed an appropriate way for upper-class women to while away their time. Sadhbh O'sullivan, refinery29.com, 4 May 2020 These were not the places in which the Detroit Tigers expected to while away their April hours. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, 23 Apr. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About while

Time Traveler for while

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near while




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for while

Last Updated

12 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“While.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/while. Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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 : although


\ ˈhwīl How to pronounce while (audio) , 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on while

Nglish: Translation of while for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of while for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!