[hwurl, wurl]
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verb (used without object)
  1. to turn around, spin, or rotate rapidly: The merry-go-round whirled noisily.
  2. to turn about or aside quickly: He whirled and faced his pursuers.
  3. to move, travel, or be carried rapidly along: She whirled along the freeway in her new car.
  4. to feel as though spinning rapidly; reel as from dizziness: My head began to whirl.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to turn around, spin, or rotate rapidly.
  2. to send, drive, or carry in a circular or curving course.
  3. to drive, send, or carry along with great or dizzying rapidity.
  4. Obsolete. to hurl.
  1. the act of whirling; rapid rotation or gyration.
  2. a whirling movement; quick turn or swing.
  3. a short drive, run, walk, or the like; spin.
  4. something that whirls; a whirling current or mass.
  5. a rapid round of events, affairs, etc.: a whirl of meetings, conferences, and business lunches.
  6. a state marked by dizziness or a dizzying succession of feelings, thoughts, etc.
  7. an attempt or trial, especially one undertaken tentatively or experimentally: Even if you don't agree with my plan, won't you give it a whirl?
  8. Machinery. whip(def 26).

Origin of whirl

1250–1300; Middle English whirlen < Old Norse hvirfla to whirl, akin to Old English hwyrflung turning, revolving, hwyrfel circuit; see whorl
Related formswhirl·er, nounwhirl·ing·ly, adverbout·whirl, verb (used with object)un·whirled, adjective

Synonyms for whirl

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for whirl

Contemporary Examples of whirl

Historical Examples of whirl

  • He tossed my hand from him with a whirl, that pained my very shoulder.

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • He caught him around the waist in his strong arms to whirl him to the ground.

  • All the while my head was in a whirl and my heart beat so loud I thought she must have heard it.

    The Green Satin Gown

    Laura E. Richards

  • Say, whence is the voice that when anger is burning, Bids the whirl of the tempest to cease?

  • He could turn and whirl swiftly enough, but White Fang was never there.

    White Fang

    Jack London

British Dictionary definitions for whirl


  1. to spin, turn, or revolve or cause to spin, turn, or revolve
  2. (intr) to turn around or away rapidly
  3. (intr) to have a spinning sensation, as from dizziness, etc
  4. to move or drive or be moved or driven at high speed
  1. the act or an instance of whirling; swift rotation or a rapid whirling movement
  2. a condition of confusion or giddinessher accident left me in a whirl
  3. a swift round, as of events, meetings, etc
  4. a tumult; stir
  5. informal a brief trip, dance, etc
  6. give something a whirl informal to attempt or give a trial to something
Derived Formswhirler, nounwhirling, adjectivewhirlingly, adverb

Word Origin for whirl

C13: from Old Norse hvirfla to turn about; related to Old High German wirbil whirlwind
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 whirl

late 13c., probably from Old Norse hvirfla "to go round, spin," related to hvirfill "circle, ring, crown," and to Old English hweorfan "to turn" (see whir). Related: Whirled; whirling. Whirlybird "helicopter" is from 1951.


early 15c., "flywheel of a spindle," from whirl (v.). The meaning "act of whirling" is recorded from late 15c.; figurative sense of "confused activity" is recorded from 1550s. Colloquial sense of "tentative attempt" is attested from 1884, American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with whirl


see give something a whirl.

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