Origin of wink

before 900; (v.) Middle English winken, Old English wincian; cognate with German winken to wave, signal; (noun) Middle English: nap, derivative of the v.
Related formswink·ing·ly, adverbun·wink·ing, adjective

Synonyms for wink

1. Wink, blink refer to rapid motions of the eyelid. To wink is to close and open either one or both eyelids with a rapid motion. To blink suggests a sleepy, dazed, or dazzled condition in which it is difficult to focus the eyes or see clearly: Bright sun makes one blink. 4. sparkle.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for winking

Contemporary Examples of winking

Historical Examples of winking

  • "Yes," assented, Stoliker, winking quietly at the professor.

  • They remained behind, winking at each other, and waiting still for Charles.

    The Channings

    Mrs. Henry Wood

  • At which he fell a winking, and the whole company burst into a laugh.

    Joseph Andrews Vol. 1

    Henry Fielding

  • Mr. Stryver was lying back on his sofa, winking at his ceiling.

    A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens

  • Boche and Bibi-the-Smoker snickered at the nudes, pointing them out to each other and winking.


    Emile Zola

British Dictionary definitions for winking




(intr) to close and open one eye quickly, deliberately, or in an exaggerated fashion to convey friendliness, etc
to close and open (an eye or the eyes) momentarily
(tr; foll by away, back, etc) to force away (tears, etc) by winking
(tr) to signal with a wink
(intr) (of a light) to gleam or flash intermittently


a winking movement, esp one conveying a signal, etc, or such a signal
an interrupted flashing of light
a brief moment of time; instant
informal the smallest amount, esp of sleepSee also forty winks
tip the wink British informal to give a hint

Word Origin for wink

Old English wincian; related to Old Saxon wincon, Old High German winchan, German winken to wave. See wench, winch




a disc used in the game of tiddlywinks

Word Origin for wink

C20: shortened from tiddlywinks
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 winking



Old English wincian "to nod, wink," from Proto-Germanic *wenkanan (cf. Dutch wenken, Old High German winkan, German winken), a gradational variant of the root of Old High German wankon "to stagger, totter," Old Norse vakka "to stray, hover," from PIE *weng- "to bend, curve." The meaning "close an eye as a hint or signal" is first recorded c.1100; that of "close one's eyes to fault or irregularity" first attested late 15c. Related: Winked; winking.



c.1300, from wink (v.); meaning "very brief moment of time" is attested from 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

winking in Medicine




To close and open the eyelid of one eye deliberately, as to convey a message, signal, or suggestion.
To close and open the eyelids of both eyes; blink.


A quick closing and opening of the eyelids; a blink.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with winking


In addition to the idiom beginning with wink

  • wink at

also see:

  • forty winks
  • quick as a wink
  • sleep a wink
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.