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

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 The match concluded with fans throwing cups onto the pitch during the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time and again after the final whistle. Jordan Culver, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando City falls 2-1 to Atlanta United, ending six-game win streak," 13 May 2018 The energy surrounding campus was palpable from the tailgating scene to the final whistle. Jordan Mcpherson, miamiherald, "A UF crowd once made Tebow drop an F bomb. Dan Mullen wants that energy back in The Swamp," 10 May 2018 Then, drowned out by the noise, the referee blew the only whistle that mattered and half the men on the field collapsed to the ground. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "Real Madrid Survives and Advances to Champions League Final," 1 May 2018 In February 2017, the company paid a settlement of more than $3 million for knowingly double-billing the government after a whistle-blower flagged the incident, according to then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. Rob Wile, miamiherald, "Here's how much taxpayers are spending to house unaccompanied immigrants," 2 July 2018 Last year, Harvard’s Kennedy School rescinded its fellowship invitation to WikiLeaks whistle-blower Chelsea Manning after conservatives and federal intelligence officials objected. Laura Krantz, BostonGlobe.com, "Lawrence Bacow promises a more outward-looking Harvard," 1 July 2018 Fassell said the Navy found out about the lapse the same day, from a whistle-blower. Kimberly Veklerov, SFChronicle.com, "Pittsburg residents fear city dump tainted with radioactive waste from SF shipyard," 22 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Emmett was murdered in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Jameelah Nasheed, Teen Vogue, "Someone Shot the Sign Marking the Spot Emmett Till's Body Was Found — Again," 6 Aug. 2018 He was kidnapped from his family’s home by two white men after he was accused of whistling at a white woman as a prank. Zak Koeske, Daily Southtown, "'Trayvon Martin before Trayvon Martin': 63 years after slaying, Emmett Till still visited daily at Alsip cemetery," 13 July 2018 The federal government has reopened the murder case of Emmett Till, a black teen whose grisly murder more than 60 years ago after being accused of whistling at a white woman shocked the nation and helped prompt the civil rights movement. John Bacon, USA TODAY, "Justice Dept. reopens Emmett Till murder case that helped inspire civil rights movement," 12 July 2018 More than 60 years have passed since 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered in Money, Miss., after reportedly whistling at a white woman. Gabby Raymond, Time, "The Justice Department Has Reopened Its Investigation of Emmett Till's Murder. Here Are 5 Things to Know About the Case," 12 July 2018 The law was named after Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy killed in 1955 after whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. Jay Reeves, The Seattle Times, "Bill would release records from civil-rights cold cases," 10 July 2018 There, a teacher told her and other students about a black boy who had traveled from Chicago to Mississippi, where he was murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The Washington Post, NOLA.com, "With LaToya Cantrell, black female Democrats will lead Louisiana's 3 largest cities," 6 May 2018 Inspired by the Tristan legend, Messiaen’s riotous celebration of love is a loopy, visionary kind-of concerto for piano and the whistling ondes martenot: Think of a Chagall painting in sound. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "An Orchestra’s Ecstatic, Once-in-a-Lifetime Birthday Party," 27 Apr. 2018 Much of a 78,011 crowd in Luzhniki Stadium whistled misplaced passes and slow play as the game progressed and Denmark protected its point — likely aware Australia had no chance of winning. Graham Dunbar, chicagotribune.com, "Denmark advances at World Cup in drab 0-0 draw with France," 26 June 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

11 Nov 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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Comments on whistle

What made you want to look up whistle? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a private place of worship

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