[hwurl, hwawrl, wurl, wawrl]


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.

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

Historical Examples of whorl

  • How old is the very top, down to the first whorl of branches?

    Ontario Teachers' Manuals: Nature Study

    Ontario Ministry of Education

  • The great nebula in Orion was a whorl of shimmering star dust.

    The Octopus

    Frank Norris

  • Let us suppose a whorl of eight leaves, surmounted by a similar whorl of eight.

    Vegetable Teratology

    Maxwell T. Masters

  • The spore-clusters, at the tips of the branches, are surrounded by a whorl of branchlets.

    The Sea Shore

    William S. Furneaux

  • But he saw a glimmer in a whorl of darkness, like a ball of living fire.

    The Hour of the Dragon

    Robert E. Howard

British Dictionary definitions for whorl



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.