noun, often attributive
whis·​tle | \ ˈ(h)wi-səl How to pronounce whistle (audio) \

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\ ˈ(h)wi-​s(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce whistle (audio) \

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 \ ˈ(h)wi-​sə-​lə-​bəl How to pronounce whistle (audio) \ adjective

Examples of whistle in a Sentence

Noun 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 Verb 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 Hear the whistle blow, board the train, take your seat, and get ready to start your once-in-a-lifetime journey alongside the Colorado River through a series of canyons and magical landscapes. Sandra Macgregor, Forbes, 6 June 2021 Keep a whistle in each bedroom to wake up your family members in the night if there’s a fire or other emergency. oregonlive, 4 June 2021 The whistle howled as the driver tried to scare off some kids on the line; there were ten or twelve, foraging for the bits of coal that fell off the carriages. Longreads, 1 June 2021 So there is that very intimate relationship, together with, until extremely recently, the lack of clear rules about whistle-blowing. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 1 June 2021 The final whistle of each of the Orlando Pride’s three consecutive wins this past week signaled something just short of an explosion from players on the bench and on the pitch. Julia Poe, orlandosentinel.com, 31 May 2021 Grande, obviously, crushes her verses of the song, unphased by any time off, hits the whistle note at the end of the song with ease. Charu Sinha, Vulture, 28 May 2021 The track’s fake-outs never really stop: At one point, Greep slips into a cabaret croon over his own jazz piano; later, psychedelic curlicue guitars crescendo and disintegrate, as a synth pitch plummets like a cartoon slide whistle. Ryan Reed, Rolling Stone, 28 May 2021 Other suggestions include carrying noisemakers such as a can with coins in it when walking pets, carrying a whistle and clapping to scare coyotes away. Brian L. Cox, chicagotribune.com, 25 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Asked to recall her first musical memory, Roze immediately cited hearing her mother sing and whistle at home, sometimes in unison with the family’s Harz Roller canaries. George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 23 May 2021 The team has tracked the animals with an array of underwater microphones since 2016, enabling them to identify which dolphin produces which whistle. Virginia Morell, Science | AAAS, 22 Apr. 2021 Joanne sent me a link to something about Zapotec whistlers, people in Oaxaca who whistle to each other across wide-open spaces. Carlos Aguilar, Vulture, 31 Mar. 2021 Satre filed suit against the company Wednesday, saying her firing was whistle blower retaliation and associational race discrimination. oregonlive, 5 Mar. 2021 From a stunning loss to Rutgers to an exhilarating upset at Michigan to Saturday’s thorough 49-7 beatdown at Iowa, a game that was all but over before the halftime whistle. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, 8 Nov. 2020 The search engine announced on Thursday that users can hum or whistle a song to their mobile devices and Google Search will find its name and artist as well as relevant search results like music videos. Fortune, 15 Oct. 2020 Gordon Hayward has a sprawling $3 million mansion in Fishers that sits on nearly seven acres — with a pool, wine cellar and every fancy bell and whistle a house can boast. Dana Hunsinger Benbow, The Indianapolis Star, 21 Sep. 2020 There was some question as to whether Rodriguez's knee had touched the ground after receiving the handoff, but officials did not whistle the play dead then and spotted the ball just outside of the goal line after review. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, 26 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for whistle

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for whistle

Last Updated

8 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Whistle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whistle. Accessed 18 Jun. 2021.

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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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