[ hwurl, hwawrl, wurl, wawrl ]
/ ʰwɜrl, ʰwɔrl, wɜrl, wɔrl /


a circular arrangement of like parts, as leaves or flowers, around a point on an axis; verticil.
one of the turns or volutions of a spiral shell.
anything shaped like a coil.
one of the central ridges of a fingerprint, forming at least one complete circle.
Textiles. a flywheel or pulley, as for a spindle.

Nearby words

  1. whorf,
  2. whorf, benjamin lee,
  3. whorfian hypothesis,
  4. whorish,
  5. whorishly,
  6. whorl foot,
  7. whorled,
  8. whorled loosestrife,
  9. whort,
  10. whortleberry

Origin of whorl

1425–75; late Middle English whorle, whorvil, wharwyl, Old English hwyrfel, equivalent to hweorfa whorl of a spindle + -el noun suffix

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for whorl

British Dictionary definitions for whorl


/ (wɜːl) /


botany a radial arrangement of three or more petals, stamens, leaves, etc, around a stem
zoology a single turn in a spiral shell
one of the basic patterns of the human fingerprint, formed by several complete circular ridges one inside anotherCompare arch 1 (def. 4b), loop 1 (def. 10a)
anything shaped like a coil
Derived Formswhorled, adjective

Word Origin for whorl

C15: probably variant of wherville whirl, influenced by Dutch worvel

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 whorl



mid-15c., "flywheel or pulley on a spindle," perhaps an alteration of whirl. Meaning "circle of leaves or flowers round a stem of a plant" is first recorded 1550s. Of seashells or other spiral structures, from 1828.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for whorl


[ wôrl, wûrl ]


A form that coils or spirals; a curl or swirl.
A turn of the cochlea or of the ethmoidal crest.
An area of hair growing in a radial manner.
One of the circular ridges or convolutions of a fingerprint.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for whorl


[ hwôrl, wôrl, hwûrl, wûrl ]

An arrangement of three or more appendages radiating in a circular or spiral arrangement from a point on a plant, as leaves around the node of a stem. The sepals, petals, stamens, and carpels of angiosperms form four separate whorls within a complete flower.
A single turn of a spiral shell of a mollusk.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.