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)
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."
"As 2016 draws mercifully to a close, just what, exactly, are we to make of this bewildering whirligig of a year?" — Brian Chasnoff, The San Antonio News-Express, 30 Dec. 2016
"The whirligig, an object that spins or whirls, may have started as a farmer's weathervane, but it evolved into a recognized piece of American folk art." — Michelle Galler, RappNews.com (Rappahannock County, VA), 8 Dec. 2016
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"?VIEW THE ANSWER
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