1 : a child's toy having a whirling motion
2 a : one that continuously whirls or changes
b : a whirling or circling course (as of events)
Sam was spinning in a financial whirligig; the more he earned the more he spent as he plunged deeper and deeper into debt.
"McKay said there will be family activities, including educational games such as playing with toys that would have amused children in colonial times…. Children can also make whirligigs and items to take home, McKay said." -- From an article in the Spartanburg Herald - Journal, June 30, 2011
Did You Know?
English speakers, and particularly children, began spinning whirligigs as early as the 15th century. Since then, "whirligig" has acquired several meanings beyond its initial toy sense. It even has a place in the common name of the whirligig beetle, a member of the family Gyrinidae that swiftly swims in circles on the surface of still water. The word "whirligig" comes to us from Middle English "whirlegigg" ("whirling top"), which is itself from "whirlen," meaning "to whirl," and "gigg," meaning "(toy) top."
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
What 5-letter relative of "whirligig" can refer to a pattern that is made by a series of circles that turn around a center point, as in "the _____ of a fingerprint"? The answer is ...