noun, often attributive
whis·​tle | \ ˈhwi-səl How to pronounce whistle (audio) , 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 How to pronounce whistling (audio) , 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 How to pronounce whistleable (audio) , ˈwi-​ \ 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Another 4 on 4 came at 6:13, when Perron and Krug tangled after the whistle. BostonGlobe.com, "Pastrnak's blast on power play," 26 Oct. 2019 Twenty five minutes after the final whistle, many key players hadn’t moved from their locker room stalls. Andy Greder, Twin Cities, "Minnesota United falls 2-1 to Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS Cup playoffs," 20 Oct. 2019 After-the-whistle (penalties) are emotion instead of passion. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Browns hurt themselves, fall flat after fast start in loss," 13 Oct. 2019 Only so much could be known for certain just minutes after the final whistle. Jonas Shaffer, baltimoresun.com, "‘We’re going to see them again': After disappointing loss to Chiefs, Ravens determined to fix their flaws," 23 Sep. 2019 On the tying drive, Houston had some help, as quarterback D’Eriq King was hit after the whistle by Tulane linebacker Malik Lawal that gave the Cougars a first down at the Tulane 11. Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle, "Cougars blow big lead, fall to Tulane on TD in final seconds," 19 Sep. 2019 So were the shots the Huskers took after the whistle. Mark Kiszla, The Denver Post, "Kiszla: How did Buffs coach Mel Tucker celebrate crazy victory against Big Red Whiners from Nebraska? By taking selfies with fans.," 7 Sep. 2019 Some still do, and the team’s staff members make sure to have permanent markers on hand after the final whistle to facilitate those requests. Andrew Keh, New York Times, "Point. Smile. Click. Repeat.," 29 Aug. 2019 Ibrahimovic, third in MLS with 16 goals, is out because of yellow-card accumulation while Polenta is suspended after getting a red card for confronting Portland’s Dairon Asprilla after the final whistle of last weekend’s 4-0 loss to the Timbers. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, "Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s yellow card tally will keep him out for Galaxy versus Atlanta," 2 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Tigers’ second possession in the overtime began in ominous fashion when the team was whistled for a five-yard infraction. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "Sophomore Tigers Super Bowl bound after thrilling win in double overtime," 4 Nov. 2019 Emmett Till was 14 years old when he was abducted, tortured and brutally murdered by two white men in 1955 after the teen was accused of whistling at a white woman. Doha Madani, NBC News, "White nationalists caught trying to film video in front of Emmett Till memorial," 3 Nov. 2019 The biggest moment in the win over the Mavericks came with 8.4 seconds left, when Lillard was whistled for a foul as the Blazers held a precarious one-point lead. Joe Freeman, oregonlive, "Portland Trail Blazers emboldened by early-season ‘fight’ and ‘character’," 31 Oct. 2019 The Suns were called for 34 fouls, but the Clippers were whistled for 32. Duane Rankin, azcentral, "Phoenix Suns' Kelly Oubre Jr. fined $10K for inappropriate language at an official," 27 Oct. 2019 Russell was upset that Thunder guard Chris Paul wasn’t whistled for a foul for apparently hitting him on Russell’s drive to the rim, but his frustration likely went much deeper. Connor Letourneau, SFChronicle.com, "Warriors lose their cool in blowout loss to Thunder," 27 Oct. 2019 Till , a 14-year-old African American from Chicago, was kidnapped, beaten and dumped in a river in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman in a store. Jay Reeves, Twin Cities, "Trump lynching claim renews pain for kin of actual victims," 23 Oct. 2019 But because officials had whistled the play dead, the ball was spotted at the Saints’ 13-yard line. Los Angeles Times, "The Sports Report: Rams win, Chargers lose," 16 Sep. 2019 Stafford threw to a wide-open McKissic, who easily got the first down as the play was whistled dead. Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press, "What happened on the Detroit Lions’ timeout call in the 4th quarter?," 9 Sep. 2019

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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Time Traveler for whistle

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for whistle

Last Updated

11 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Whistle.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whistled. Accessed 21 November 2019.

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More Definitions for whistle


How to pronounce whistle (audio)

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 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.

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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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