\ˈwisp \

Definition of wisp 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a small handful (as of hay or straw)

2a : a thin strip or fragment

b : a thready streak a wisp of smoke

c : something frail, slight, or fleeting a wisp of a girl a wisp of a smile

3 archaic : will-o'-the-wisp


wisped; wisping; wisps

Definition of wisp (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to roll into a wisp

2 : to make wisps of a cigarette wisping smoke at the corner of his mouth— Raymond Chandler

intransitive verb

: to emerge or drift in wisps her hair began to wisp into her eyes— Mary Manning

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Other Words from wisp


wispily \ˈwi-​spə-​lē \ adverb
wispiness \ˈwi-​spē-​nəs \ noun
wispy \ˈwi-​spē \ adjective

Examples of wisp in a Sentence


Wisps of steam rose up from the teapot. Wisps of cotton candy clung to his mouth.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Here are some of our favorite new gadgets on the market: Microsoft Surface GoThis 10-inch tablet weighs just a wisp over a pound and actually fits on a tray table. Paul Brady, Condé Nast Traveler, "Four New Gadgets to Step Up Your Next Flight," 17 Oct. 2018 In r/Asceticism, Snoo dematerializes into the cyberether, its form the mere wisp of an outline. Arielle Pardes, WIRED, "The Transformative Power of Reddit's Alien Mascot," 6 July 2018 That’s Santa Cruz in the corner, the unassuming, 125-pound wisp who is relentlessly punching the air, his fifth t-shirt of the workout soaked to its last fiber. Michael Mcknight, SI.com, "In Rematch Against Abner Mares, Leo Santa Cruz Finds Motivation in Father's Cancer Fight," 7 June 2018 Rainbow Pool, Groveland: The water is cool and, as summer takes hold, the waterfall turns into more of a wisp and the pool warms a bit. Tom Stienstra, SFChronicle.com, "Hot sun, full moon, cool water make for surreal swims," 28 June 2018 Then, the air needs to be still for a few days, and the sky needs to be perfectly clear, without a wisp of a cloud or a shimmer of diamond dust above the ice sheet. National Geographic, "Coldest Place on Earth Found—Here's How," 27 June 2018 The first sign of the explosion was a wisp of smoke and a muffled blast, survivors said. sandiegouniontribune.com, "May 27, 1954: Explosion rips carrier Bennington," 27 May 2018 Privet on the other hand will exist, as a wisp, in the understory of a forest just waiting for an opening. Jefferson County Cooperative Extension, AL.com, "The problem with privet (Garden Talk)," 29 Mar. 2018 For what on a map seems like a small country, a wisp of a parenthetical shape at the edge of the world’s largest continent, I was overwhelmed by the sense of opportunity. Mary Louise Schumacher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "With Kusama Museum and art-filled islands, Japan is a paradise for art nerds," 27 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The gentle breeze of my ceiling fan has wisps of my dark hair dancing back and forth across the left side of my face. Meryl Davis, SELF, "Meryl Davis: Finding New Purpose After Life as an Olympian," 30 May 2018 Vessel’s 18 bedroom-style songs wisp away like seeds from a dandelion, each subsequent track feeling more fleeting than its predecessor. Kevin Warwick, Chicago Reader, "Frankie Cosmos delivers another aching, poignant record of two-minute indie-pop songs," 27 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'wisp.' 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 wisp


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1753, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for wisp


Middle English

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Statistics for wisp

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for wisp

The first known use of wisp was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for wisp



English Language Learners Definition of wisp

: a thin streak of smoke, mist, etc.

: a thin thread or strand of something (such as hair)

: a small amount of something


\ˈwisp \

Kids Definition of wisp

1 : a thin piece or strand wisps of hair

2 : a thin streak wisps of smoke

3 : a small amount of something There was a wisp of a smile on her face.

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More from Merriam-Webster on wisp

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wisp

Spanish Central: Translation of wisp

Nglish: Translation of wisp for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wisp for Arabic Speakers

Comments on wisp

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


having a pattern of small flowers

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