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)

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 3-ton whirligig has a lot of moving pieces, so to speak. Michelle Deal-zimmerman, baltimoresun.com, 24 Jan. 2022 Co-written by Ryan Tedder, the song is a whirligig of whoops and claps that seems designed for the wedding dance floor. Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, 24 Sep. 2021 The smarmy introductions and whirligig graphics and general aura of hectic oversell could be replaced with a more confident statement of what theater, at its best, has been and can be. New York Times, 2 June 2021 The hands-on, annual event engaged students in various activities, including basket weaving, tin punching and whirligig creations. cleveland, 27 Nov. 2020 The whirligig of literary reputation has brought about its own revenge, true to the Comic Spirit of irony that Meredith so often invoked. Hermione Lee, The New York Review of Books, 17 Nov. 2020 For another whirligig story in which a well-off family’s life is upended, see this stylized thriller from the Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. Gabe Cohn, New York Times, 8 Apr. 2020 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, 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, 7 Sep. 2019 See More

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.

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

Buying Guide

Check out the best toys & games of the year from our Reviews team.

Learn More About whirligig

Time Traveler for whirligig

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About whirligig

Dictionary Entries Near whirligig



whirligig beetle

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for whirligig

Cite this Entry

“Whirligig.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whirligig. Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!