[ wahyl, hwahyl ]
See synonyms for while on Thesaurus.com
  1. a period or interval of time: to wait a long while;He arrived a short while ago.

  2. Archaic. a particular time or occasion.

  1. during or in the time that.

  2. throughout the time that; as long as.

  1. even though; although: While she appreciated the honor, she could not accept the position.

  2. at the same time that (showing an analogous or corresponding action): The floor was strewn with books, while magazines covered the tables.

  1. Archaic. until.

verb (used with object),whiled, whil·ing.
  1. to cause (time) to pass, especially in some easy or pleasant manner (usually followed by away).

Idioms about while

  1. all the while. See entry at all the while.

  2. worth one's while, worth one's time, trouble, or expense: The art exhibition that opened yesterday isn't worth your while.

Origin of while

First recorded before 900; Middle English; Old English hwīl; cognate with Dutch wijl, German weile, Old Norse hvīla, Gothic hweila

Words that may be confused with while

Words Nearby while

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use while in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for while


/ (waɪl) /

conjunctionAlso: whilst (waɪlst)
  1. (subordinating) at the same time that: please light the fire while I'm cooking

  2. (subordinating) all the time that: I stay inside while it's raining

  1. (subordinating) in spite of the fact that: while I agree about his brilliance I still think he's rude

  2. (coordinating) whereas; and in contrast: flats are expensive, while houses are cheap

  3. (subordinating; used with a gerund) during the activity of: while walking I often whistle

preposition, conjunction
  1. Scot and Northern English dialect another word for until you'll have to wait while Monday for these sheets; you'll never make any progress while you listen to me

  1. (usually used in adverbial phrases) a period or interval of time: once in a long while

  2. trouble or time (esp in the phrase worth one's while): it's hardly worth your while to begin work today

  1. the while at that time: he was working the while

Origin of while

Old English hwīl; related to Old High German hwīla (German Weile), Gothic hveila, Latin quiēs peace, tranquīlus tranquil

usage For while

It was formerly considered incorrect to use while to mean in spite of the fact that or whereas, but these uses have now become acceptable

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with while


In addition to the idioms beginning with while

  • while away
  • while back
  • while there's life there's hope

also see:

  • all the time (while)
  • a while back
  • every now and then (once in a while)
  • fiddle while Rome burns
  • get out while the getting is good
  • in a while
  • make hay while the sun shines
  • once in a while
  • quit while you're ahead
  • strike while the iron's hot
  • worth one's while

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.