whirl·i·gig | \ˈhwər-li-ˌgig, ˈwər-\

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 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 The giant whirligig that is the Home Run Sculpture at Marlins Park didn’t move an inch, light up, spray water, or go through any of its usual gyrations when Lewis Brinson homered in Tuesday’s first inning. Clark Spencer, miamiherald, "Marlins do not activate HR sculpture in exhibition game. What about regular season? | Miami Herald," 27 Mar. 2018 To ensure that final vowel stays banished, there's not a flag, whirligig, weather vane, or braided rug in sight. Kathleen Hackett, ELLE Decor, "A Haven in the Hamptons," 29 June 2010 For now at least, Gucci serves as the best-case-scenario for what can happen when the fashion whirligig turns, and a new interpreter takes over a storied brand. Maya Singer, Vogue, "The “Merch” Phenomenon Is Just Beginning—The Future of Fashion Is on TV," 29 Aug. 2017 The whirligig's whirlwind rise took even toy store clerks by surprise. Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA.com, "Fidget spinners fly off shelves -- and school desks -- in New Orleans," 31 May 2017

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

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Statistics for whirligig

Last Updated

14 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for whirligig

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

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More Definitions for whirligig



English Language Learners Definition of whirligig

: a child's toy that spins rapidly

More from Merriam-Webster on whirligig

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Comments on whirligig

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


to reject or criticize sharply

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