\ˈhwər(-ə)l, ˈwər(-ə)l\
whirled; whirling; whirls

Definition of whirl 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to move in a circle or similar curve especially with force or speed

2a : to turn on or around an axis like a wheel : rotate

b : to turn abruptly around or aside : wheel whirled around in surprise

3 : to pass, move, or go quickly whirled down the hallway

4 : to become giddy or dizzy : reel my head is whirling

transitive verb

1 : to drive, impel, or convey with or as if with a rotary motion

2a : to cause to turn usually rapidly on or around an axis : rotate

b : to cause to turn abruptly around or aside

3 obsolete : to throw or hurl violently with a revolving motion



Definition of whirl (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : a rapid rotating or circling movement

b : something undergoing such a movement

2a : a busy or fast-paced succession of events : bustle a whirl of activity the social whirl

b : a confused or disturbed mental state : turmoil a whirl of febrile excitement— Emily Skeel

3 : an experimental or brief attempt : try gave it a whirl

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Other Words from whirl


whirler \ˈhwər-lər, ˈwər- \ noun

Examples of whirl in a Sentence


The cars were whirling around the track. Clothes were whirling in the washing machine. The water whirled around the drain. Her dance partner whirled her around.


My head was in a whirl. the whirl of the mechanical ride made him dizzy
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Another issue is whether Comey's critique about the President can penetrate the permanent storm that whirls around Trump and fundamentally reshape already polarized opinion about the President's behavior. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Trump now faces Comey's moral assault," 16 Apr. 2018 Duncan Robinson took a pass in the corner, rose for a three-pointer that fell through the basket and whirled around to momentarily watch his teammates commence Michigan’s celebration in earnest. Nathan Fenno, latimes.com, "Charles Matthews steps up for the Wolverines in regional final," 25 Mar. 2018 What’s more, audiences had taken to her style of dress: short skirts — cut two inches above the knee, according to the Associated Press at the time — that whirled up in the air around her waist during spins. Jacob Bogage, Washington Post, "The world’s first Olympic ice queen became a Hollywood star — and a Hitler admirer," 21 Feb. 2018 The lasers whirling above the dancers’ heads — more fit for Allstate Arena than the Athenaeum Theatre — were equally unpolished, seeming to turn on and off willy-nilly. Lauren Warnecke, chicagotribune.com, "Tap Theatre’s fun diva spectacle needs rehearsal, and maybe a diva," 24 June 2018 It is lifted by a thin, 17-foot rotor blade that whirls just above the pilot's head under the power of hydrogen peroxide fuel broken down by catalytic action into steam that is ejected at high speed from the rotor tips. Scott Harrison, latimes.com, "From the Archives: The Pinwheel helicopter," 19 June 2018 Marty Pearl/Special to Louisville Courier Journal With a loud printing press whirling behind them, the Barnhart sisters bend over a large white desk inspecting one of 2018's first Kentucky Derby Festival posters. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, "This poster beautifully represents the Kentucky Derby Festival. See it here," 26 Jan. 2018 Soon the players acquired a new clubhouse sound system, to blast music during the ceremonies and whirling party lights. Ben Reiter, SI.com, "Why Carlos Beltrán Was the Perfect Addition to Aid the Astros' Journey to the World Series," 9 July 2018 Every few minutes the vacuum whirled back to life as one of us cleared up another patch of bugs and sent them to their Dyson afterlife. Christopher Muther, BostonGlobe.com, "How to survive an Airbnb disaster, bugs and all," 5 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

While painting and in all parts of her life, Mrs. Arnold could be a whirl of motion, which was reflected in each canvas. Bryan Marquard, BostonGlobe.com, "Doffie Arnold, an artist whose canvases sparkled with energy, dies at 94," 6 July 2018 Before, during and after his whirl wind trip to Singapore for the Kim meeting, his critics in both parties kept revealing themselves. Fox News, "Woolsey: Trump keeps the North Koreans off balance," 12 June 2018 Trump's policy strategy since has been surprisingly linear and coherent for an administration that has unfolded in a whirl of chaos. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Trump deserves credit for Korean thaw," 27 Apr. 2018 The Grammy-award winning musician will be one of the first guests to give the water park a whirl. Lori Rackl, chicagotribune.com, "First look: Great Wolf Lodge Illinois ready to welcome guests, Chance the Rapper," 21 June 2018 Through the exhausting whirl of all-night parties, shopping, and beach holidays, little Gloria spent the vast majority of her time with her live-in nurse. Nancy Bilyeau, Town & Country, "Inside the Custody Battle for 10-Year-Old Heiress Gloria Vanderbilt," 30 Sep. 2016 The Burkett family next went for a whirl on the nearby Tomb Rider. René A. Guzman, San Antonio Express-News, "Curious who goes into Ripley’s by Alamo? So were we," 25 June 2018 Today, Putin is at the center of a whirl of geopolitical activity. Nathan Hodge, CNN, "Despite sanctions, Putin is pulling the world back to Russia," 24 May 2018 Two-and-a-half hours whirl by under the direction of Casey Nicholaw, who also provides the snappy choreography. Lawrence Toppman, charlotteobserver, "REVIEW: ‘Something Rotten!’ mixes Shakespeare, spoofs and inside jokes (careful: puns ahead) | Charlotte Observer," 9 May 2018

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for whirl


Middle English, probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse hvirfla to whirl; akin to Old High German wirbil whirlwind, Old English hweorfan to turn — more at wharf

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Learn More about whirl

Dictionary Entries near whirl

whip up







Phrases Related to whirl

give (something) a whirl

the social whirl

Statistics for whirl

Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for whirl

The first known use of whirl was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for whirl



English Language Learners Definition of whirl

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to move or go in a circle or curve especially with force or speed

: to turn rapidly in circles

: to turn quickly and suddenly



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

: a fast turning movement

: something that is turning quickly in circles

: a state of busy movement or activity


\ˈhwərl, ˈwərl\
whirled; whirling

Kids Definition of whirl

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to turn or move in circles rapidly

2 : to feel dizzy After the ride my head whirled.

3 : to move or carry around rapidly



Kids Definition of whirl (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a rapid movement in circles

2 : something that is or seems to be moving in circles a whirl of dust

3 : a state of busy movement : bustle

4 : a brief or experimental try I've never tried, but I'll give it a whirl.

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Comments on whirl

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