\ 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

Last week’s patriotic activities certainly had the community whirling with events. cleveland.com, "Frostville Museum reflects life in the 19th century: Olmsted Dates and Data," 28 June 2019 That soothing sapphire expanse does reveal some of the whirling chaos below in the form of cloudy bands and massive gyres that look like dark smudges on its surface. National Geographic, "Neptune, explained," 28 Mar. 2019 The wind seems to be propelling her, tugging at her, so that at one point her hair tumbles free, her dress whirls. The New York Review of Books, "Lisa Appignanesi," 9 May 2019 Nor do any of Janowski’s current rivals in this repertory have his knack for clarifying the ripe harmonies and rich scoring of the Venusberg bacchanal, while in no way diminishing the music’s whirling sensuality. John Von Rhein, chicagotribune.com, "Marek Janowski's belated CSO downtown debut sends electric charge through Orchestra Hall," 1 June 2018 The momentum builds; saris begin whirling off the shelves. Meara Sharma, Vogue, "Why I Am Taking the Sari Back to the Street," 30 Apr. 2019 The pilot tried to calm the cabin, but amid the screams, the engine noise and the whirling outside air, passengers struggled to hear, said Amy Serafini, who was in Row 15. Eliott C. Mclaughlin, CNN, "How passengers, pilots kept crippled Southwest Flight 1380 from turning deadlier," 22 Apr. 2018 On Saturday-morning TV, Aquaman always seemed to be hurling whirling balls of water. Thomas Vinciguerra, WSJ, "I Want to Be Aquaman When I Grow Up . . .," 13 Dec. 2018 Bruno Frisoni found a tall fez in a collection forming a stylish tablescape and spent most of the evening whirling like a dervish in it. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Hamish Bowles Attends Serdar Gülgün’s Opulent Ottoman Ball in Istanbul," 4 Feb. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 Sitting in a glass-walled conference room at the NeueHouse, a stylish co-working space in Hollywood, Har’el is the center of gravity as a small group of people and a larger whirl of activity orbit around her. Stacy Perman, latimes.com, "Filmmaker Alma Har'el frees up space for women in the entertainment industry," 17 June 2019 Nothing says summer like cotton candy and a ride on the tilt-a-whirl. Randy Blaser, chicagotribune.com, "Column: Summer is here. You better enjoy it while it lasts.," 6 June 2019 Now, nearly 20 years after tasting some extra virgin olive oil on a trip to Italy and deciding to give importing a whirl, Dixon, 66, is ready to open his first real store to the general public. Michael Russell, oregonlive.com, "Real Good Food’s first store to feature fine olive oil, vermouth on tap," 4 June 2019 The fish whirl and spin against a vivid backdrop of corals, sponges, and algae. Carrie Arnold, National Geographic, "Shipwrecks may help tropical fish adapt to climate change," 10 May 2019 The growing acceptance of marijuana use in Canada and much of the U.S. has sparked a whirl of recent deal activity. Cara Lombardo, WSJ, "Marijuana Company Is Pressed to Make Deal by Activist Investor," 6 Sep. 2018 Astronomers have long hypothesized that other planets in our solar system have impacts here on Earth, shifting its whirl around the sun from nearly circular to five percent elliptical. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Venus and Jupiter May Meddle With Earth’s Orbit and Climate," 10 May 2018 Or had the full moon moved them to whirl and the animal to wail? Lance Esplund, WSJ, "A Life-Changing Art Encounter," 23 Nov. 2018

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

18 Jul 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 form ideas or theories about something

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