- 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.
- to make such a sound or series of sounds otherwise, as by blowing on some device.
- to emit similar sounds from the mouth, as birds do.
- (of a device) to produce a similar sound when actuated by steam or the like: This teakettle whistles when it boils.
- to move, go, pass, etc., with a whistling or whizzing sound, as a bullet or the wind.
- to produce by whistling: to whistle a tune.
- to call, direct, or signal by or as by whistling: He whistled his dog over.
- to send with a whistling or whizzing sound.
- 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.
- a sound produced by whistling: a prolonged whistle of astonishment.
- a simple fipple flute.
- whistle for, to demand or expect without success: After promising to pay, he told us we could whistle for our money.
- blow the whistle, to expose the existence of mischief or wrongdoing: The agent was taking bribes until someone finally blew the whistle.
- 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.
- wet one's whistle, Informal. to take a drink.
- 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.
Origin of whistle
- to produce (shrill or flutelike musical sounds), as by passing breath through a narrow constriction most easily formed by the pursed lipshe whistled a melody
- (tr) to signal, summon, or command by whistling or blowing a whistlethe referee whistled the end of the game
- (of a kettle, train, etc) to produce (a shrill sound) caused by the emission of steam through a small aperture
- (intr) to move with a whistling sound caused by rapid passage through the air
- (of animals, esp birds) to emit (a shrill sound) resembling human whistling
- whistle in the dark to try to keep up one's confidence in spite of fear
- a device for making a shrill high-pitched sound by means of air or steam under pressure
- a shrill sound effected by whistling
- a whistling sound, as of a bird, bullet, the wind, etc
- a signal, warning, command, etc, transmitted by or as if by a whistle
- the act of whistling
- 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
- wet one's whistle informal to take an alcoholic drink
- blow the whistle (usually foll by on) informal
- to inform (on)
- to bring a stop (to)
Word Origin for whistle
"tubular musical instrument," Old English hwistle (see whistle (v.)). To wet one's whistle "take a drink" (late 14c.) originally may have referred to pipes, or be an allusion to the throat as a sort of pipe. Phrase clean as a whistle is recorded from 1878. Railroad whistle stop (at which trains stop only if the engineer hears a signal from the station) is recorded from 1934.
Old English hwistlian, from Proto-Germanic *khwis-, of imitative origin. Used also in Middle English of the hissing of serpents. Related: Whistled; whistling. To whistle for (with small prospect of getting) is probably from nautical whistling for a wind. To whistle "Dixie" is from 1940.
whistle in the dark
Summon up courage in a frightening situation, make a show of bravery. For example, They knew they were lost and were just whistling in the dark. This expression alludes to a literal attempt to keep up one's courage. [First half of 1900s]
In addition to the idioms beginning with whistle
- whistle Dixie
- whistle for
- whistle in the dark
- blow the whistle on
- clean as a whistle
- slick as a whistle
- wet one's whistle