\ ˈhwər(-ə)l How to pronounce whirl (audio) , 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 How to pronounce whirler (audio) , ˈwər-​ \ noun

Synonyms for whirl

Synonyms: Verb

agitate, churn, stir, swirl, wash

Synonyms: Noun

gyration, pirouette, reel, revolution, roll, rotation, spin, twirl, wheel

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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

Turntables whirled with the sounds of cumbia, bachata, corrido and norteña. Dorany Pineda, latimes.com, "The Chulita Vinyl Club is curbing cultural erasure one spinning record at a time," 15 June 2019 A billion years ago, something in the whirling darkness of space erupted with a fury that obscured the glow of entire galaxies. Quanta Magazine, "Long-Lived Stellar Blast Kindles Hope of a Supernova We’ve Never Seen Before," 12 Sep. 2019 The rest of the United States is basically the eyewall: an ever-widening vortex of outrage and bureaucratic retaliations whirling around Trump’s false weather reports. Avi Selk, Washington Post, "Here in Alabama, no sign of Trump’s hurricane," 8 Sep. 2019 An espresso machines whirls and whooshes, coins clatter in a cash register, bags scrape along the floor. Deanna Pan, BostonGlobe.com, "A day at South Station: A gateway to Boston, an intersection of many different lives," 17 Aug. 2019 Speculation whirled as the July 31 deadline approached, but the Dodgers didn’t budge. Los Angeles Times, "The Sports Report: Should the Lakers reunite with Dwight Howard?," 20 Aug. 2019 To their right is percussionist Jodi Linscott, a whirling dervish surrounded by percussive toys who spins a full 360, slashing and whacking away at all of them. San Diego Union-Tribune, "From the Archives: The Who’s generation turned out at stadium 30 years ago," 23 Aug. 2019 His back to the basket, Mays whirled and made a strong throw to the infield to prevent Larry Doby from scoring from second base. John Shea, SFChronicle.com, "Willie Mays signing picture for fan who caught Pablo Sandoval homer," 28 July 2019 The grizzly whirled and swiped with a paw, but the wolverine was already racing around to one side. National Geographic, "As wolverines battle to survive, warming poses a new threat," 11 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Well above both the projected salary cap and luxury tax, figures for 2019-20 that will be released Sunday by the NBA, only a degree of cunning and cost-cutting figures to get the Heat into the personnel whirl of free agency. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, "A Heat free-agency primer: Every option and possibility for the Summer of ’19," 26 June 2019 Sheridan gave it a whirl and posted a photo of the result. Gillian Ferguson, Los Angeles Times, "What we’re into: Virtual Cooking Club," 12 Aug. 2019 The Rexes Jurassic Park: As sirens sound and lights whirl, a Tyrannosaurus Rex poked his head through the pipes above, roaring with either anger or hunger. Scott Craven, azcentral, "Universal Studios Hollywood opens Jurassic World ride. But is it better than the old one?," 12 July 2019 Ole Smoky was born and bred in Gatlinburg; in 2009, a couple of Gatlinburg-Pittman High grads discovered a family recipe for moonshine and decided to give production a whirl. al.com, "Take a luxury camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains," 9 July 2019 The two characters in the video whirl through a romance filled with motorcycle rides and late-night dancing. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes come together for a new single and music video 'Señorita'," 21 June 2019 There is no entry fee for the contest either, so give it a whirl. Anchorage Daily News, "Anchorage Pridefest 2019 is here, and the celebration goes all week," 20 June 2019 Brand-new plays are a tricky business, and Lee, an accomplished screenwriter as well as playwright, might just need more time and tweaking to bring further nuance to his story of people caught in a whirl of personal and political conflict. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Old Globe’s world-premiere work ‘What You Are’ is a deep dive into identity politics and more," 7 June 2019 The rising playwright puts his central character of a struggling middle-aged white man through a whirl of events involving race and class, in a story that admirably gathers tension and momentum under Patricia McGregor’s direction. Lisa Deaderick, San Diego Union-Tribune, "11 things to do this weekend in San Diego: Bayside Summer Nights, Switchfoot Bro-Am, ‘Legendary Drag Queens of San Diego’," 28 June 2019

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







Statistics for whirl

Last Updated

10 Oct 2019

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 How to pronounce whirl (audio) , 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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More from Merriam-Webster on whirl

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with whirl

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for whirl

Spanish Central: Translation of whirl

Nglish: Translation of whirl for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of whirl for Arabic Speakers

Comments on whirl

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


to fake an opponent out of position

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