noun, often attributive
whis·​tle | \ ˈhwi-səl How to pronounce whistle (audio) , ˈwi-\

Definition of whistle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a small wind instrument in which sound is produced by the forcible passage of breath through a slit in a short tube a police whistle
b : a device through which air or steam is forced into a cavity or against a thin edge to produce a loud sound a factory whistle
2a : a shrill clear sound produced by forcing breath out or air in through the puckered lips
b : the sound produced by a whistle
c : a signal given by or as if by whistling
3 : a sound that resembles a whistle especially : a shrill clear note of or as if of a bird


whistled; whistling\ ˈhwi-​s(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce whistling (audio) , ˈwi-​ \

Definition of whistle (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to utter a shrill clear sound by blowing or drawing air through the puckered lips
b : to utter a shrill note or call resembling a whistle
c : to make a shrill clear sound especially by rapid movement the wind whistled
d : to blow or sound a whistle
2a : to give a signal or issue an order or summons by or as if by whistling
b : to make a demand without result he did a sloppy job, so he can whistle for his money

transitive verb

1a : to send, bring, signal, or call by or as if by whistling
b : to charge (someone, such as a basketball or hockey player) with an infraction
2 : to produce, utter, or express by whistling whistle a tune
whistle in the dark
: to keep up one's courage by or as if by whistling

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Other Words from whistle


whistleable \ ˈhwi-​sə-​lə-​bəl How to pronounce whistleable (audio) , ˈwi-​ \ adjective

Examples of whistle in a Sentence


The policeman blew his whistle. We could hear the train's whistle. We could hear the low whistle of the wind through the trees. the whistle of the tea kettle


He was whistling as he walked down the street. He whistled for a cab. He whistled a happy tune. The teakettle started to whistle. A bullet whistled past him.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The shrieking of the San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s downtown whistle at 4:03 a.m., heard over a radius up to two miles, was the first signal to thousands of citizens that the invasion had started. The Tribune-sun, San Diego Union-Tribune, "From the Archives: 75 years ago the Allies stormed beachheads in France," 6 June 2019 Staff were eligible for five counselling sessions, and an external reporting service for whistle-blowing had been created. The Economist, "Charity begins at work," 6 June 2019 Feel the noise There are two things that always work out for the home team: bench players play better and the whistle is a bit kinder. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, "Kurtenbach: The 3 big things to watch in Game 3 of the NBA Finals," 5 June 2019 After Game 3, Blues coach Craig Berube griped over the number of whistles that went against his players (14) after St. Louis had been the least penalized team through the first three rounds of the postseason. Isabelle Khurshudyan, The Denver Post, "Stanley Cup Final shows there’s still room for “heavy” hockey in NHL," 4 June 2019 Bieber recently married his girlfriend, while Sheeran has been on a break traveling with his longtime partner—and the melody is delicate, punctuated by warm whistles and a celebratory bridge. Raisa Bruner, Time, "Here Are Our Predictions for the Song of Summer 2019," 4 June 2019 Her son, who will turn 3 next month, imitates his mother and uncles by running around the house with a flag and whistle. Kevin Baxter, latimes.com, "Kathryn Nesbitt’s ambition and talent have forged her path to Women’s World Cup," 3 June 2019 Struggling in the opening minutes of the match, Cincinnati responded and controlled play toward the full-time whistle. Charlie Hatch, Cincinnati.com, "Scouting report: FC Cincinnati hosts Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday night at Nippert Stadium," 13 July 2018 Upon hearing the whistle, Ching straightened up and pointed skyward in a display of unquestionable jubilation. Andrew Turner, latimes.com, "Daily Pilot Wrestling Dream Team: Edison’s Elijah Palacio excelled in new home," 4 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Ambos begins to whistle a German folk song into a microphone, while Taylor uses scissors to cut great pieces off of Joss’s gown. Norman Vanamee, Town & Country, "How Sackler Became the Most Toxic Name in Philanthropy," 16 May 2019 However, over the years, steam radiators can start producing some very aggravating sounds, including banging, knocking, whistling, and squeaking. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, "How to Silence a Noisy Steam Radiator," 11 Dec. 2018 The minor key digressions of the third movement are early examples of Mozart whistling in the graveyard. Christian Hertzog, sandiegouniontribune.com, "A rare, fiery performance of a Rebel ballet kicks off Mainly Mozart Festival," 10 June 2018 The sun was falling swiftly and a wind had kicked up, whistling down from the top of the hill. Tim Layden, SI.com, "Downhill Bronze Medal a Soaring Triumph for Ski Racer Lindsey Vonn," 21 Feb. 2018 The remix features a few bars and whistling by Billy Ray. Jasmine Gomez, Seventeen, "Who is Lil Nas X? Everything You Need to Know About the "Old Town Road" Rapper," 9 Apr. 2019 Perkins was whistled for a technical foul and Moretti, a 92-percent free-throw shooter, hit both. Jim Meehan, The Seattle Times, "Gonzaga’s season ends just short of Final Four in dramatic loss to Texas Tech in West Region final," 30 Mar. 2019 Ten minutes later, Foonski let out a roar, and then whistled a pine cone over my head in response. Tom Stienstra, SFChronicle.com, "At summer campsite, cute squirrels can go rogue," 9 July 2018 Bialetti, an Italian maker of whistling coffeepots, closed this plant in Omegna, Italy, and moved production to Romania. Tom Fairless, WSJ, "A Tale of Two Companies—and Two Countries," 20 Jan. 2019

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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for whistle


Middle English, from Old English hwistle; akin to Old Norse hvīsla to whisper

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Statistics for whistle

Last Updated

10 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for whistle

The first known use of whistle was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for whistle



English Language Learners Definition of whistle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a small device that makes a very high and loud sound when a person blows air through it
: a device through which air or steam is forced to produce a very high and loud sound
: a high and loud sound made by forcing air through your lips or teeth



English Language Learners Definition of whistle (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make a high sound by blowing air through your lips or teeth
: to produce a high and loud sound by forcing air or steam through a device
: to move, pass, or go very fast with a high sound


whis·​tle | \ ˈhwi-səl How to pronounce whistle (audio) , ˈwi-\

Kids Definition of whistle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a device by which a loud high-pitched sound is produced
2 : a high-pitched sound (as that made by forcing the breath through puckered lips)


whistled; whistling

Kids Definition of whistle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to make a high-pitched sound by forcing the breath through the teeth or lips
2 : to move, pass, or go with a high-pitched sound The arrow whistled past.
3 : to produce a high-pitched sound by forcing air or steam through a device The kettle whistled.
4 : to express by whistling I whistled my surprise.

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More from Merriam-Webster on whistle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with whistle

Spanish Central: Translation of whistle

Nglish: Translation of whistle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of whistle for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about whistle

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