[hwahylz, wahylz]


Chiefly Scot. at times.
Obsolete. in the meantime.


Archaic. while.

Origin of whiles

Middle English word dating back to 1175–1225; see origin at while, -s1


[hwahyl, wahyl]


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.

verb (used with object), whiled, whil·ing.

to cause (time) to pass, especially in some easy or pleasant manner (usually followed by away).

Origin of while

before 900; Middle English; Old English hwīl; cognate with Dutch wijl, German weile, Old Norse hvīla, Gothic hweila
Can be confusedwhile wile
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for whiles

Contemporary Examples of whiles

Historical Examples of whiles

  • My father says whiles he's some feart they're no bein made the maist o'.'

    Heather and Snow

    George MacDonald

  • I'll get Kirsty to big ane, and mebbe she 'll come and bide in 't wi' me whiles!'

    Heather and Snow

    George MacDonald

  • Yet "though it's dull at whiles," there is joy in the doing of it, there is joy in just obeying.

    Things as They Are

    Amy Wilson-Carmichael

  • But whiles we think; an' whiles we speak—an' whiles we wunna.

    St. Cuthbert's

    Robert E. Knowles

  • But I was thinking, that whiles you army gentlemen can buy yoursel's up a step.

    Red Cap Tales

    Samuel Rutherford Crockett

British Dictionary definitions for whiles



at times; occasionally


while; whilst


conjunction Also: whilst (waɪlst)

(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

preposition, conjunction

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
See also whiles

Word Origin for while

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


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

Word Origin and History for whiles



"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).



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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with whiles


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.