noun, often attributive
whis·​tle | \ ˈhwi-səl, 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 , 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 , 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

But as Marine One thundered into the London sky later that evening, gathered below were several hundred protesters armed with pots, pans, drums, horns, whistles, megaphones and placards daubed with messages of varying profanity. Alexander Smith /, NBC News, "Trump in Britain: President faces dozens of protests across U.K.," 13 July 2018 A few dozen current and former journalists from the Capital Gazette — some with tears in their eyes — marched down Main Street to the sound of supportive whistles, hollers and applause. Pamela Wood, baltimoresun.com, "Annapolis Independence Day parade honors freedom of the press, especially for The Capital," 5 July 2018 And, yeah, the Earl Thomas situation still has the potential to erupt into a cesspool of recrimination despite the ceasefire of hostilities once the whistle blows. Larry Stone, The Seattle Times, "In win over Cowboys, Seahawks show they can thrive amid the Earl Thomas chaos," 24 Sep. 2018 After the final whistle blew in Moscow, celebrations erupted across France, from the manicured avenues of Paris to the cobblestones of Provence. Stacy Meichtry, WSJ, "France Revels in World Cup Victory," 15 July 2018 Your information will be used as described in our Privacy Policy MOSCOW (AP) — When the final whistle blew, Mexico midfielder Miguel Layun sank to his hands and knees on the turf and was embraced by his shirtless teammate Carlos Salcedo. Ben Nuckols, Houston Chronicle, "A 'milestone' World Cup win kicks off celebration for Mexico," 18 June 2018 And then, when the final whistle blew, ending the visiting Cardinals’ string of 13 straight league wins, the Eagles savored an important win that puts them 6-4 overall and 2-1 in league play. Glenn Graham, baltimoresun.com, "No. 4 McDonogh boys lacrosse rallies for 6-4 win over No. 1 Calvert Hall," 11 Apr. 2018 Mbappé, though, will be all of 23, and as Messi glumly walked in the direction of the tunnel after the final whistle on Saturday, Mbappé was the first Frenchman to offer him condolences. Christopher Clarey, New York Times, "Messi Exits the World Cup. Hours Later, So Does Ronaldo.," 1 July 2018 Though police officers stood in the center of many of the most dangerous crossroads blowing whistles and waving their arms, few drivers paid attention. Megan Kate Nelson, Smithsonian, "A Brief History of the Stoplight," 18 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

There’s her parents: Katie, the janitress breadwinner, her hands scarred from soda-and-lye wash, and Johnny, a part-time singing waiter prone to spontaneous waltzes and bursts of whistling—boyishly handsome, and hopelessly alcoholic. Allie Spensley, WSJ, "A Tale of Roots and Resilience," 5 Oct. 2018 Till was 14 years old when Carolyn Donham, a 21-year-old shopkeeper in the town of Money, said the youth grabbed and whistled at her. John Bacon, USA TODAY, "Justice Dept. reopens Emmett Till murder case that helped inspire civil rights movement," 12 July 2018 As the couple stepped out onto the balcony and waved, they were met with a roar of whistling, claps and cheers. Jennifer Hassan, BostonGlobe.com, "A look at the royal wedding traditions — and pressures — that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry face," 16 May 2018 The source of the image in this case was also a movement icon: a 1955 post mortem photograph of Emmett Till, a black teenager who, after being accused of whistling at a white woman, was murdered. Holland Cotter, New York Times, "50 Years After Dr. King’s Death, New Lessons for Today," 28 Mar. 2018 Cedric Soares was whistled for a handball after a lengthy review process. Chris Chavez, SI.com, "WATCH: Simultaneous VAR Reviews Impact Spain, Portugal World Cup Group Results," 25 June 2018 Moritz Wagner was whistled for a travel after the jump ball. Nick Baumgardner, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan keeps composure, overcomes draining day to finish Montana," 16 Mar. 2018 Exum was whistled for three first-quarter fouls, with the last two (on a Harden drive and a Harden three-point attempt) questionable enough that the soldout Jazz crowd was incensed. Sam Amick, USA TODAY, "Chris Paul curse, be gone: Rockets rolling to Western Conference finals," 7 May 2018 When the whole arm is paralyzed, nerves must be diverted from the ribs and children must learn how to activate their arm by coughing or whistling. Sumathi Reddy, WSJ, "Another Burst of Polio-Like Cases in Children Alarms Doctors," 5 Nov. 2018

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

23 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

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, 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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