whirl·​i·​gig | \ ˈ(h)wər-li-ˌgig How to pronounce whirligig (audio) \

Definition of whirligig

1 : a child's toy having a whirling motion
3a : one that continuously whirls, moves, or changes
b : a whirling or circling course (as of events)

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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 popularity of these whirligigs also corresponded to a new vogue for angel food cakes, which necessitated huge volumes of eggs to be beaten, the whites and the yolks separately. Ben Huberman, Longreads, "“Labor-Saving” Kitchen Gadgets End Up Creating More Work for Women," 3 Nov. 2019 An intense whirligig of tannins metallically attacked my mouth and, on the finish, there was an astringent sizzle, with undertones of acid reflux. Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, "How the Orange-Wine Fad Became an Irresistible Assault on Pleasure," 7 Sep. 2019 Items in the museum include kites, masks, whirligigs, dolls, animal figures, rugs, paintings, carvings from wood and from recycled Styrofoam. Mary Jane Brewer, cleveland.com, "Private folk art museum opens in Medina County," 21 Aug. 2019 In memory, during that long-ago evening on the edge of the woods, even my young children were drawn into its whirligig of shipwrecks, twins in disguise, misread letters, wise foolery and foolish wisdom. Edward Rothstein, WSJ, "‘Twelfth Night’ Review: A Bland Transposition," 11 July 2019 Jesse Rieser for The Wall Street Journal Dennis Danzik has invented a whirligig that calls for the suspension of disbelief and the laws of physics. Dan Neil, WSJ, "One Man’s Unlikely Quest to Power the World With Magnets," 16 May 2019 Its second season struck me as a near-perfect whirligig of a TV season, constantly yanking the rug out from underneath itself and hoping its fall wasn’t too brutal. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Love it or hate it, season 3 of The Good Place is taking us somewhere new (again)," 12 Oct. 2018 The whirligig of time has returned a reimagining of Shakespeare’s comedy to Shakespeare in the Park. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, "12 Plays and Musicals to Go to in N.Y.C. This Weekend," 12 July 2018 Taking the money and then giving it back, in an endless game of bureaucratic whirligig, does not seem to grab them the way it grabs wonks. David Roberts, Vox, "Big oil and Bush-era lobbyists are teaming up to support a carbon tax," 22 June 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for whirligig

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

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Time Traveler for whirligig

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

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Last Updated

27 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Whirligig.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whirligig. Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for whirligig


How to pronounce whirligig (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of whirligig

: a child's toy that spins rapidly

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with whirligig

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