whirl·​i·​gig ˈ(h)wər-li-ˌgig How to pronounce whirligig (audio)
: a child's toy having a whirling motion
: one that continuously whirls, moves, or changes
: a whirling or circling course (as of events)

Did you know?

English speakers, and particularly children, began spinning whirligigs as early as the 15th century. Since then, whirligig has acquired several meanings beyond its initial toy sense. It even has a place in the common name of the whirligig beetle, a member of the family Gyrinidae that swiftly swims in circles on the surface of still water. The word whirligig comes to us from Middle English whirlegigg ("whirling top"), which is itself from whirlen, meaning "to whirl," and gigg, meaning "(toy) top."

Examples of whirligig in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The fate of Ingenuity was sealed when imagery beamed back to Earth after its 72nd and final flight on Jan. 18 showed that a portion of one of the miniature whirligig’s twin rotor blades had broken off, leaving it incapable of further operation, NASA officials said. Joey Roulette and Steve Gorman, The Christian Science Monitor, 26 Jan. 2024 In this whirligig of a chapter we are also first introduced to Haydn, the most admired composer of his time. Simon Callow, The New York Review of Books, 22 Dec. 2022 Beyond Oro, there’s also a meandering sand and water space, a modern twist on an obstacle course, spinning whirligigs, pickleball courts and pint-sized soccer fields. oregonlive, 5 Sep. 2023 Discotheque lighting by Justin Townsend is a whirligig of Barbie-pinks and tropical blues. Naveen Kumar, Variety, 20 July 2023 The house might lack a mirrored façade and 55-foot tall spinning whirligig. Mary Carole McCauley, baltimoresun.com, 30 June 2021 But Suzie is painfully aware that the truth is no match for the whirligig whims of the public, who hold all the power in their slippery hands. Darren Franich, Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, 23 Dec. 2022 The whirligig filming of a battle scene features a collection of Skid Row drunkards all, apparently, wielding real weapons; the segment ends with a tracking shot across the battle-wounded and the revelation that one guy’s dead. K. Austin Collins, Rolling Stone, 23 Dec. 2022 The deliciously intricate story begins in Manhattan, in 1933, in the form of a whirligig whodunnit. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 10 Oct. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'whirligig.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English whirlegigg, from whirlen to whirl + gigg top — more at gig entry 4

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of whirligig was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near whirligig

Cite this Entry

“Whirligig.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whirligig. Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


whirl·​i·​gig ˈhwər-li-ˌgig How to pronounce whirligig (audio)
: a toy that has a whirling motion
: something that continuously whirls or changes
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