[ wis-uhl, hwis- ]
See synonyms for: whistlewhistling on Thesaurus.com

verb (used without object),whis·tled, whis·tling.
  1. to make a clear musical sound, a series of such sounds, or a high-pitched, warbling sound by the forcible expulsion of the breath through a small opening formed by contracting the lips, or through the teeth, with the aid of the tongue.

  2. to make such a sound or series of sounds otherwise, as by blowing on some device.

  1. to emit similar sounds from the mouth, as birds do.

  2. (of a device) to produce a similar sound when actuated by steam or the like: This teakettle whistles when it boils.

  3. to move, go, pass, etc., with a whistling or whizzing sound, as a bullet or the wind.

verb (used with object),whis·tled, whis·tling.
  1. to produce by whistling: to whistle a tune.

  2. to call, direct, or signal by or as by whistling: He whistled his dog over.

  1. to send with a whistling or whizzing sound.

  1. an instrument for producing whistling sounds by means of the breath, steam, etc., as a small wooden or tin tube, a pipe, or a similar device with an air chamber containing a small ball that oscillates when air is forced through an opening, producing a high-pitched, warbling tone.

  2. a sound produced by whistling: a prolonged whistle of astonishment.

  1. a simple fipple flute.

Verb Phrases
  1. whistle for, to demand or expect without success: After promising to pay, he told us we could whistle for our money.

Idioms about whistle

  1. blow the whistle, to expose the existence of mischief or wrongdoing: The agent was taking bribes until someone finally blew the whistle.

  2. blow the whistle on,

    • to bring a stop to; halt: Congress has blown the whistle on all unnecessary expenditures for the program.

    • to expose (wrongdoing or wrongdoers): to blow the whistle on corruption in high places.

  1. wet one's whistle, Informal. to take a drink.

  2. whistle in the dark, to attempt to summon up one's courage or optimism in a difficult situation: He says his business will improve next year, but he's probably just whistling in the dark.

  3. whistle past the graveyard. See entry at whistle past the graveyard.

Origin of whistle

First recorded before 950; (verb) Middle English whistlen, Old English hwistlian; akin to Old Norse hvīsla “to whistle,” hviskra “to whisper”; see whine; (noun) Middle English; Old English hwistle “instrument,” akin to the verb

Other words from whistle

  • whis·tle·a·ble, adjective
  • in·ter·whis·tle, verb (used with object), in·ter·whis·tled, in·ter·whis·tling.
  • un·whis·tled, adjective

Words Nearby whistle

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use whistle in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for whistle


/ (ˈwɪsəl) /

  1. to produce (shrill or flutelike musical sounds), as by passing breath through a narrow constriction most easily formed by the pursed lips: he whistled a melody

  2. (tr) to signal, summon, or command by whistling or blowing a whistle: the referee whistled the end of the game

  1. (of a kettle, train, etc) to produce (a shrill sound) caused by the emission of steam through a small aperture

  2. (intr) to move with a whistling sound caused by rapid passage through the air

  3. (of animals, esp birds) to emit (a shrill sound) resembling human whistling

  4. whistle in the dark to try to keep up one's confidence in spite of fear

  1. a device for making a shrill high-pitched sound by means of air or steam under pressure

  2. a shrill sound effected by whistling

  1. a whistling sound, as of a bird, bullet, the wind, etc

  2. a signal, warning, command, etc, transmitted by or as if by a whistle

  3. the act of whistling

  4. music any pipe that is blown down its end and produces sounds on the principle of a flue pipe, usually having as a mouthpiece a fipple cut in the side

  5. wet one's whistle informal to take an alcoholic drink

  6. blow the whistle (usually foll by on) informal

    • to inform (on)

    • to bring a stop (to)

Origin of whistle

Old English hwistlian; related to Old Norse hvīsla

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 whistle


In addition to the idioms beginning with whistle

  • whistle Dixie
  • whistle for
  • whistle in the dark

also see:

  • blow the whistle on
  • clean as a whistle
  • slick as a whistle
  • wet one's whistle

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