- a period or interval of time: to wait a long while; He arrived a short while ago.
- Archaic. a particular time or occasion.
- during or in the time that.
- throughout the time that; as long as.
- even though; although: While she appreciated the honor, she could not accept the position.
- at the same time that (showing an analogous or corresponding action): The floor was strewn with books, while magazines covered the tables.
- Archaic. until.
- to cause (time) to pass, especially in some easy or pleasant manner (usually followed by away).
- all the while, at or during this time; all along: She realized all the while that the cake would fall.
- 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
- (subordinating) at the same time thatplease light the fire while I'm cooking
- (subordinating) all the time thatI stay inside while it's raining
- (subordinating) in spite of the fact thatwhile I agree about his brilliance I still think he's rude
- (coordinating) whereas; and in contrastflats are expensive, while houses are cheap
- (subordinating; used with a gerund) during the activity ofwhile walking I often whistle
- 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
- (usually used in adverbial phrases) a period or interval of timeonce in a long while
- trouble or time (esp in the phrase worth one's while)it's hardly worth your while to begin work today
- the while at that timehe was working the while
Word Origin and History for while
Old English hwile, accusative of hwil "a space of time," from Proto-Germanic *khwilo (cf. Old Saxon hwil, Old Frisian hwile, Old High German hwila, German Weile, Gothic hveila "space of time, while"), originally "rest" (cf. Old Norse hvila "bed," hvild "rest"), from PIE *qwi- "rest" (cf. Avestan shaitish "joy," Old Persian šiyatish "joy," Latin quies "rest, repose, quiet," Old Church Slavonic po-koji "rest"). Notion of "period of rest" became in Germanic "period of time."
Now largely superseded by time except in formulaic constructions (e.g. all the while). Middle English sense of "time spent in doing something" now only preserved in worthwhile and phrases such as worth (one's) while. As a conjunction (late Old English), it represents Old English þa hwile þe; form whiles is recorded from early 13c.; whilst is from late 14c., with excrescent -st as in amongst, amidst (see amid).
"to cause (time) to pass without dullness, 1630s, earlier "to occupy or engage (someone or something) for a period of time" (c.1600), new formation from while (n.), not considered to be from Middle English hwulen "to have leisure," which is from a Germanic verb form of while (n.) (cf. German weilen "to stay, linger"). An association with phrases such as Shakespearean beguile the day, Latin diem decipere, French tromper le temps "has led to the substitution of WILE v by some modern writers" [OED] (see wile).
Idioms and Phrases with while
In addition to the idioms beginning with while
- while away
- while back
- while there's life there's hope
- 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