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[wisp] /wɪsp/
a handful or small bundle of straw, hay, or the like.
any thin tuft, lock, mass, etc.:
wisps of hair.
a thin puff or streak, as of smoke; slender trace.
a person or thing that is small, delicate, or barely discernible:
a mere wisp of a lad; a wisp of a frown.
a whisk broom.
Chiefly British Dialect.
  1. a pad or twist of straw, as used to rub down a horse.
  2. a twisted bit of straw used as a torch.
a will-o'-the-wisp or ignis fatuus.
verb (used with object)
to twist into a wisp.
Origin of wisp
1300-50; Middle English wisp, wips; akin to wipe
Related forms
wisplike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for wisp
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "Sure I'm only rowling a wisp of straw on my leg," replied Hosey.

  • Good Indian twisted a wisp of mane in his fingers, and frowned abstractedly.

    Good Indian B. M. Bower
  • She withdrew her arm from his and struck him lightly with a wisp of hay.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine
  • The visitor, by its attraction, drew from the nebula a wisp of gas.

    The Meaning of Evolution Samuel Christian Schmucker
  • A wisp of her hair caressed his right ear, but somehow did not relax his temper.

    The Trimming of Goosie James Hopper
  • Is that he with the wisp of hair hanging from his chin, in the long coat?

    Under Western Eyes Joseph Conrad
  • The coals of the fire still smouldered and gave forth a wisp of smoke.

    Oh, You Tex! William Macleod Raine
  • They had seen a wisp of smoke curling up from the tree tops.

    The Tale of Mrs. Ladybug

    Arthur Scott Bailey
  • A man stood in the doorway, naked but for the wisp of skirt at his waist.

    Bones Edgar Wallace
British Dictionary definitions for wisp


a thin, light, delicate, or fibrous piece or strand, such as a streak of smoke or a lock of hair
a small bundle, as of hay or straw
anything slender and delicate: a wisp of a girl
a mere suggestion or hint
a flock of birds, esp snipe
(intransitive) often foll by away. to move or act like a wisp
(transitive) (mainly Brit, dialect) to twist into a wisp
(transitive) (mainly Brit) to groom (a horse) with a wisp of straw, etc
Derived Forms
wisplike, adjective
Word Origin
C14: variant of wips, of obscure origin; compare wipe


noun acronym
Wireless Information Service Provider: an internet service provider set up to deal with and deliver internet services to clients through wireless access points
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for wisp

c.1300, "handful or bundle of hay, grass, etc.," used for burning or cleaning or as a cushion; perhaps from an unrecorded Old English word, cognate with Norwegian and Swedish visp "wisp," of unknown origin; sometimes said to be connected with whisk or with Middle Low German and Middle Dutch wispel "a measure of grain." Meaning "thin, filmy portion" first attested 1836.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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