dog whistle

[ dawg-hwis-uhl, -wis-, dog- ]

  1. an ultrasonic whistle, audible to dogs and some other animals but out of the range easily perceptible to the human ear, used by handlers of working dogs and by dog trainers.

  2. Chiefly Politics. a choice of words, coded communication, or other symbolic aspect of self-presentation that is superficially unobjectionable or neutral but conveys a secondary message aimed at those who affiliate with a controversial group or fringe ideology, usually signaling one’s own affinity for such beliefs: The candidate used “welfare reform” as a dog whistle appealing to racist voters.The logo on the t-shirt he chose to wear in his profile pic is a neo-Nazi dog whistle.

Origin of dog whistle

First recorded in 1800–05

Other words from dog whistle

  • dog-whis·tle, adjective
  • dog whis·tling, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use dog whistle in a sentence

  • He pulled a dog-whistle from his pocket and blew two shrill calls upon it.

    The Adventures of Harry Revel | Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
  • Around his neck hung a prize which he had won in the games, a silver dog-whistle on a scarlet ribbon.

  • Neither the Master's calls nor the ear-ripping blasts of his dog-whistle could bring her back to The Place.

    Lad: A Dog | Albert Payson Terhune
  • Jack had a dog-whistle, so he took it off and gave it to her.

    Mopsa the Fairy | Jean Ingelow
  • Hugh went into the house and a few minutes later came out again with the dog whistle and gave it to Jack.

    Jack, the Young Ranchman | George Bird Grinnell

British Dictionary definitions for dog-whistle


  1. relating to the targeting of potentially controversial messages to specific voters while avoiding offending those voters with whom the message will not be popular: dog-whistle politics

  1. (intr) to employ this kind of political strategy

Origin of dog-whistle

C21: from the fact that a dog whistle operates at frequencies that can be heard only by dogs

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