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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Unlike in football, the end of the pandemic will not be signaled by a sharp whistle clearing the playing field and audible to all. Steven Phillips, Scientific American, 3 Aug. 2022 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had lunch with two top executives from Taiwan’s biggest semiconductor manufacturer during her whistle-stop tour of the island, underscoring how vital computer chips have become to U.S. national security. Cate Cadell, Washington Post, 3 Aug. 2022 Later on, lights strobed as a whistle blew again, and vigorous jumping jacks ensued on stage. Rachel Besser, Vogue, 25 July 2022 Lokan's family suggested bear spray manufacturers include a unique whistle in a bear spray trigger that could alert others as well as be an additional deterrent to bears, the report said. Amy Beth Hanson, USA TODAY, 20 July 2022 Sebastian Blanco, frustrated all night by the lack of calls in Portland’s favor, picked up a yellow card in the 90th minute for repeatedly smacking the turf after not getting a whistle. oregonlive, 17 July 2022 The show will star Katherine Damisch as Maria and Matt Whalen as Captain Von Trapp, the widowed naval officer who runs his home like a battleship, going as far as summoning his large family by a whistle. Jeff Banowetz, Chicago Tribune, 7 July 2022 The harsh whistle of a lifeguard occasionally interrupts the shouts and chatter, but never enough for a moment of true quiet. Lesley Finn, Longreads, 7 July 2022 Now, in his new book, Tomar blows the whistle on the entire contract cheating industry in a highly engaging, often perversely amusing, account of online cheating-for-hire. Michael T. Nietzel, Forbes, 1 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In time, a dog can be whistle-trained to do almost anything. New York Times, 17 May 2022 As shells whistle overhead and provisions run low, Sergeyich seems to think of only one thing — beekeeping. New York Times, 24 May 2022 Marcus Smart tripped on a drive to the rim but was bailed out by a poor call by the officials, who decided to whistle a foul on Jrue Holiday instead. Katie Mcinerney, BostonGlobe.com, 13 May 2022 Will the officials continue to be whistle happy in Game 3, or let the physicality roll in this playoff game? Dana Scott, The Arizona Republic, 6 May 2022 At one point, Sweet seems to whistle quietly, amazed at one of his collaborator’s vocal flourishes. Elias Leight, Rolling Stone, 30 Mar. 2022 Companies have entire departments and armies of outside public relations helpers to whistle past the graveyard until a big event like the Olympics fades into the rear view mirror. Nathaniel Taplin, WSJ, 4 Feb. 2022 Every few minutes, Hagen interrupted himself to whistle back and forth with a bird. Brooke Jarvis, The New Yorker, 8 Nov. 2021 The trainer would whistle when that person became a lethal threat. Paighten Harkins, The Salt Lake Tribune, 18 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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

Learn More About whistle

Time Traveler for whistle

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near whistle

whist family



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for whistle

Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Whistle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whistle. Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for whistle


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.


Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!