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

Making mistakes in a 4-3 defeat to Bournemouth is one thing, conceding two goals to horrendous errors in the Champions League final reduced the man to an emotional wreck, apologising to the fans at the final whistle. SI.com, "Why Liverpool Need to Forget Signing a New Keeper & Stick With Loris Karius," 10 July 2018 At the final whistle, the France bench erupted onto the field and the players broke into dance. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "France Advances to the World Cup Final," 10 July 2018 Lukaku, who was marked, left it for Chadli to tap home and cap Belgium's stunning win right before the final whistle. Ryland James, chicagotribune.com, "Chadli fires Belgium into World Cup's last eight," 2 July 2018 Still, thousands of Denmark fans in the stadium seemed happy enough at the final whistle. Graham Dunbar, BostonGlobe.com, "Denmark and France advance at World Cup with drab, scoreless draw," 26 June 2018 Clad in Russia's red soccer jersey, Dunayev belted out his latest song, an ode produced by members of government for the national team, moments before the final whistle in Russia's 3-0 loss to Uruguay. Amie Ferris-rotman, Washington Post, "For the World Cup, the Russian people are all in, win or lose," 25 June 2018 As Real celebrated at the final whistle, an inconsolable Karius buried his face into the turf and then tearfully apologize to Liverpool's supporters. CNN, "Loris Karius: Police investigate death threats to Liverpool goalkeeper," 28 May 2018 The fans continued to throw beer cans, bottles and cups at Atlanta United players when the final whistle sounded just seconds later. Andrew Joseph, For The Win, "Orlando City fans threw trash at Atlanta United players after ref's crucial no-call," 13 May 2018 The whistle-blower also explained that clothing and fashion preferences are some of the leading indicators of political preferences. Roxanne Adamiyatt, Town & Country, "Cambridge Analytica Targeted L.L. Bean and Wrangler Customers in the 2016 Presidential Election," 30 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Here, fans exploit all sorts of mechanics to make Link move faster — one common method involves whistling while mashing the sprint button to run infinitely. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "Watching a Breath of the Wild speedrunner collect Koroks is mesmerizing," 15 Dec. 2018 He’s been whistled for precisely one charge in his NBA career. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "The Few. The Proud. The Players Who Have Been Run Over by Zion Williamson.," 5 Dec. 2018 Then Senad Lulic was whistled for a foul on Cancelo directly in front of the goal to set up Ronaldo’s penalty. Andrew Dampf, The Seattle Times, "Ronaldo recovers from difficult week in Juve’s comeback win," 27 Jan. 2019 The play was whistled dead, but an Arizona State player fell on the ball, and rather than assess a penalty, officials were slow to remove the player and reset the ball. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Five other times when Wisconsin sports teams have been hurt by iffy (or outright bad) officiating," 23 May 2018 The Islanders went on the power play just 20 seconds in, when Tampa Bay’s Erik Cernak was whistled for high-sticking. Vin A. Cherwoo, The Seattle Times, "Cizikas, Clutterbuck help Islanders beat Lightning 5-1," 13 Jan. 2019 That was lost on the warm seaside breeze that happily whistled through the roll-up garage door walls of the Dewey Beer Co., which sits on a beach block corner as close to the sand as perhaps any in brewery America. Craig Laban, Philly.com, "Sipping Delaware beer coast's colorful sours," 15 June 2018 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

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

18 Feb 2019

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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