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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

About fifteen minutes before the opening whistle, a large contingent of Leon supporters paraded along the walkway of the lower-level seats, waving large flags and blaring trumpets. Ben Steele, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "C.F. Pachuca beats Club Leon in third-ever friendly at Miller Park," 11 July 2018 Andrew Das: There’s the whistle on a fast-paced, regularly chippy but notably scoreless half. Andrew Das, New York Times, "England Shakes Its Shootout Curse and Saves Its World Cup," 5 July 2018 Shultz, now 97, may have the most to answer for, as the Journal’s reporting revealed that after his grandson, Tyler, blew the whistle on Theranos, the former secretary of state repeatedly pressured him to keep quiet. Rebecca Robbins, STAT, "7 questions to watch after criminal charges filed in the Theranos saga," 18 June 2018 But as the first 45 minutes progressed, the Fire became more and more dangerous, culminating with Nikolic’s equalizer right before the halftime whistle, assisted by Ramos from the right side. Juan Pimiento, chicagotribune.com, "Chicago Fire advance in U.S. Open Cup on dramatic penalty kicks over Columbus," 6 June 2018 David Magerman, the Main Line data scientist, school philanthropist, and restaurateur, blew a whistle on Mercer’s agenda in my column last year. Joseph N. Distefano, Philly.com, "Facebook stumbles amid campaign data scandal but don't count it out," 21 Mar. 2018 At the next whistle, the Baylor bench returned the shoe and Robinson left the court briefly. Lary Bump, Houston Chronicle, "TCU holds off Baylor in Big 12 tilt," 24 Feb. 2018 All those years, young black men were told to never, ever whistle at a white woman. Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, "Funeral for Emmett Till, lynched in 1955, unfolds every day in the nation’s capital," 12 July 2018 Late in afternoon, Mayor James Rolph suggested that bells be rung and whistles blown generally through the town at 6 o’clock. Johnny Miller, SFChronicle.com, "5 years, $26 million for QB Young," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

According to accounts, Emmett allegedly whistled at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman who worked at the store. Deneen L. Brown, Washington Post, "Emmett Till’s mother opened his casket and sparked the civil rights movement," 12 July 2018 However, during Wimbledon this week, his mother was whistling a different tune. Katherine Fominykh, baltimoresun.com, "Five things to know about Riverdale's tennis phenom, Frances Tiafoe," 7 July 2018 Shells and bullets whistled past, whipping up the earth and filling his nostrils, his mouth, making him choke. Mary Horlock, Longreads, "The Camouflage Artist: Two Worlds Wars, Two Loves, and One Great Deception," 21 June 2018 And all about are the goats with silky, long ears, whistled to order by herdsmen who make the sound pinching a leaf between their teeth. Victoria Mather, A-LIST, "India Files: the Princely Grandeur of Rajasthan," 20 June 2018 Carolyn Donham, one of the men’s wives, had claimed that Till whistled at her outside of a store, and then proceeded to make crude verbal and physical advances towards her. Kaila Philo, The New Republic, "The Emmett Till case has been reopened.," 12 July 2018 Armed with a big lead, starter Johnny Cueto made like an officer whistling and waving cars through an intersection with a broken stoplight. Kerry Crowley, sacbee, "Buster Posey has hip pain, but he has Giants feeling good in walkoff win over Cubs," 11 July 2018 Marcanvis Hymon was whistled for a technical foul with the score just 2-0. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky basketball's team of 'lovers' stand up to early Ole Miss technical fouls, ejection," 1 Mar. 2018 The piece recounts Rice’s efforts to ban excessive whistling from aboard their vessels. Kate Wagner, The Atlantic, "City Noise Might Be Making You Sick," 20 Feb. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about whistle

Phrases Related to whistle

clean as a whistle

whistle past the graveyard

Statistics for whistle

Last Updated

16 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for whistle

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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 magnificent or impressive array

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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