Definition of while in US English:

while

noun

  • 1A period of time.

    ‘we chatted for a while’
    ‘she retired a little while ago’
    • ‘Once you gain the promontory of grandparenthood, these things last for only short whiles, not for 20 straight years like they used to.’
    • ‘It is safe to assume that the word had been around for a while before 1611.’
    • ‘There were two bastards in the Jones household for a while - but only one of them was truly Jenny's.’
    • ‘For a while, she watches the merry flames which seem to embody the very spirit of this night.’
    • ‘At Ibrox, there is a telly in the ref's room, and I'll maybe watch that for a while.’
    • ‘None the less, for a while it became very difficult for writers to present their views artistically.’
    • ‘All this while my family was watching from inside the van, and in full view of all those in line.’
    • ‘Taoism may prolong your life for a while, but by means of its teaching one cannot escape death.’
    • ‘So I sat and flew my tiny little kite for a while and watched the much bigger inflatables and other kites fill the sky above.’
    • ‘He opened his eyes and, having watched her for a while, he asked her what she was doing.’
    • ‘At this time kidneys were taken a little while after the donor's heart had stopped and death had been pronounced.’
    • ‘I went back and watched TV for a while till Jess wanted to go back to her room.’
    • ‘After a while, a low grumbling in our stomachs indicated it was time to hit the curry house.’
    • ‘Matron allowed me to come too, for a while, to watch, pirouette around and drink a thimbleful of ginger wine.’
    • ‘We spent a while just watching them eat, scratch, yawn, stretch and go about their business.’
    • ‘A baby is born, then there is a rest for a little while, then the contractions should start again.’
    • ‘After a while, the consensus on how to respond to the examples breaks down and the debate stalls.’
    • ‘Yet all the while they know where they are and where they are going!’
    • ‘The matter was referred to London and Paris, and for a while tension between the two countries was extreme.’
    • ‘All the while, she watches Brian's face, alert for signs of pain or discomfort.’
    time, spell, stretch, stint, span, season, interval, period, period of time, length of time, duration, run, phase, stage, term
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1a while For some time.
      ‘can I keep it a while?’
      • ‘Again the industry cooled its heels a while and then brought back the same plan.’
  • 2the whileAt the same time; meanwhile.

    ‘he starts to draw, talking the while’
    1. 2.1literary During the time that.
      ‘beseeching him, the while his hand she wrung’

conjunction

  • 1During the time that; at the same time as.

    ‘nothing much changed while he was away’
    • ‘The victims were attacked while watching a cricket match between India and Pakistan on television.’
    • ‘The question has been raised whether we were tortured while being investigated.’
    • ‘People have argued that Einstein grew up as a scientist while he was developing the general theory.’
    • ‘Domitia finds the list while he sleeps, and joins others whose names are there in a conspiracy.’
    • ‘They may also accept patients on a temporary basis while they are resident in the practice area.’
    • ‘The thing that stayed with me while watching the movie was the sense of dread that something was going to happen.’
    • ‘Sousa's creed as a conductor was to entertain his audience while educating them.’
    • ‘You can watch a previously-recorded show while recording something else, you see.’
    • ‘Now I'm not going to be able to think of anything else but her ears while watching the movie.’
    • ‘It would not be right to close a chapter about art in the digital era while neglecting the truest offspring of the new media.’
    • ‘Every year a lot of new people are sucked into the media occupations, while at the same time a lot of people leave.’
    • ‘Can a tradition be borrowed only in part, while leaving out something fundamental to it?’
    • ‘This means that they allow the analyst to code text while working at the computer and to retrieve the coded text.’
    • ‘Officers parked a decoy car with items left in full view while they watched from an unmarked vehicle nearby.’
    • ‘They relate to what people can say or do while participating in a procession or other form of demonstration.’
    • ‘Police have apologised after two brothers were arrested while they were watching a hunt for car thieves.’
    • ‘Pliny the Elder lost his life while visiting Vesuvius during an eruption.’
    • ‘All of them, like Darwin, had to negotiate ways to work while suffering from ill health.’
    • ‘The double receiver means viewers can watch one digital channel while recording another.’
    • ‘By then, experience had toughened him, while making him more determined than ever to succeed.’
  • 2Whereas (indicating a contrast)

    ‘one person wants out, while the other wants the relationship to continue’
    • ‘Myrtle, for example, is the emblem of love while sweet lavender denotes a loyal heart.’
    • ‘Spain is increasing the size of its fishing fleet while ours is contracting.’
    • ‘He was presented with a watch, while his wife Wendy was presented with a bouquet of flowers.’
    • ‘It can absorb the individual as a visit to the cinema can, while watching television can't.’
    • ‘Her husband spends his weekends watching football, while she watches soap operas and Sex and the City.’
    • ‘Some contracts offer just protection, while others provide investment links.’
    • ‘Black cabbies pay the airport a fee to operate there, while Checker was required to bid for a contract.’
    • ‘Writing by hand continues to be basic to education while at the same time its value has declined in occupational terms.’
    • ‘There is a mistaken belief that it is a straight road, while in fact there is a slight bend.’
    • ‘Both in fact were non-rhotic, while the majority of Americans speak with rhotic accents.’
    • ‘All the toes were red while the rest of the foot was white, indicating poor circulation.’
    • ‘Some sought to contradict him, while others tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore his prying.’
    • ‘A strange contradiction emerged as the art was praised while those who created it were degraded.’
    • ‘This is not a static and unchangeable world where all whites have the goods while blacks do not.’
    • ‘The main entrance is on the north while another to the south is used by a modern track.’
    • ‘Danny Slatter has signed a one-year contract, while Russell Edwards has been released.’
    • ‘This indicates that expression of the transgene occurs in tubers while the endogene seems to be silent.’
    • ‘O'Boyle is out of contract in the summer, while Thomas still has two years remaining on his deal.’
    • ‘The sky was almost black, while the trees and shrubs where all frosty pink.’
    1. 2.1 In spite of the fact that; although.
      ‘while I wouldn't recommend a nighttime visit, by day the area is full of interest’
      • ‘Hegel, for example, while not defending war, observed that it was the nursery of the heroic virtues.’
      • ‘In fact, while the experiment was, of necessity, painful, it was far from worthless.’
      • ‘In fact, while they are labeled as such, they are not really fantasy stories in the genre sense.’
      • ‘The relationship, while exciting and original, had eventually become strained.’
      • ‘I knew that cat-claws, while wonderful things, cannot get traction on the glass of a mirror.’
      • ‘Walking lines of kids around the Plateau on a long cord, while cute, cannot be the only option.’
      • ‘But while one side of the battle is finished, it will not go away.’
      • ‘Now, though, while the price of these two has dropped more than two quid, so has the quality.’
      • ‘The fact remains that, while horses may not die of foot-and-mouth, they do carry the disease.’
      • ‘So the thought of flying, while appealing, was not at the top of my list of things to do.’
      • ‘Peter says while the thought of group therapy may seem daunting, there are many benefits from working this way.’
      • ‘But while gay couples may be looking to settle down, some find life in Britain difficult.’
      • ‘Thus while we can start with Waltz, we certainly do not want to stop with him.’
      • ‘The spray is used to subdue violent offenders and, while painful, does not leave any permanent damage.’
      • ‘But while it created room for the diffusion of authority it did not have a place for individualism.’
      • ‘Such conditions, while toxic to plants and animals, can be quite cozy for archaeans.’
      • ‘So, while online petitions are useless, as everyone says, surely they can do no harm.’
      • ‘I have always thought that Edinburgh, while grand in design, was timid in vision.’
      although, even if, even though, in spite of the fact that, despite the fact that, notwithstanding the fact that, notwithstanding that, for all that, while, whilst, granted that, even supposing, despite the possibility that, albeit, however, yet, but
      View synonyms

relative adverb

  • During which.

    ‘the period while the animal remains alive’
    • ‘There's a moment's freezing silence while her eyebrows contract like thunder.’
    • ‘There were no words confining the cover to a period while actual repairs were taking place.’
    • ‘It is not just for a relatively short period while physical defects to the property are made good.’
    • ‘The result was a lengthy hiatus in the building work while another contractor was sought.’

verb

[with object]while something away
  • Pass time in a leisurely manner.

    ‘a diversion to while away the long afternoons’
    • ‘It is where the former snooker superstar, cocaine addict, failed car salesman and landscape gardener, now whiles away his hours.’
    • ‘I quite like the thought of it being written in a staff room by bored and bearded school teachers, puffing on pipes and whiling away dreary lunch breaks.’
    • ‘The English Tea House & Restaurant is a sublime slice of colonial luxury; indeed, most visitors wind up whiling the afternoon away within its convivial surroundings rather than just stopping for lunch.’
    • ‘In the event, Mara was ousted from his post by the military, and is currently understood to be peacefully whiling his time away on a yacht.’
    • ‘A movie seemed like a top idea, a way of hiding in the darkness of a lounge, whiling away the hours.’
    • ‘People sat under parasols outside the cafes, whiling the day away.’
    • ‘I would have perhaps whiled the time away in such a state had not a scent, borne on the ebony breezes, suddenly caught my attention.’
    • ‘Anyhow, it's a scorcher of an afternoon, perfect for whiling away a couple of hours in the sunshine.’
    • ‘But for today's child, vacation no longer means whiling away the time in front of the television, pestering the mother or keeping grandparents on tenterhooks for the most part of the day.’
    • ‘These are the best places for whiling away lazy afternoons in amusing, light-hearted conversations with the often-quirky fellow hostel mates.’
    • ‘When boys of their age were seen whiling away their time playing games and wasting their money on watching movies, it is commendable to see these students lending their helping hand to the starving people.’
    • ‘After a summer whiled away drinking gin and tonic and reading books, I moved to Pittsburgh for lack of anything better to do.’
    • ‘Here you will find a number of great wee shops which are perfect for whiling away an afternoon browsing among the treasures.’
    • ‘Juniper whiled many a day away in her sitting room, speaking to none, playing absently with the pale rose petals, as soft as the skin of a newborn's cheek.’
    • ‘He infiltrates MI5 and prospers at the heart of the establishment, but in the end he is exposed as a spy and whiles away his final days sick, surrounded by empty gin bottles and memories, answering a young reporter's questions.’
    • ‘When not out with Sanura, Kira spent most of her time in her room and whiled the time away by expressing her obsession through her art.’
    • ‘Many an hour could be whiled away here, eating, drinking, surfing the net, listening to music and chatting up a prospective date.’
    • ‘The 91-year-old from Stockport whiles away her spare time making woolly jumpers - for penguins.’
    • ‘When not in school, the troupe whiles away its time at Arnold's, the local drive-in diner.’
    pass, spend, occupy, use up, kill, beguile
    View synonyms

Usage

On the distinction between worth while and worthwhile, see worthwhile. See also awhile While is sometimes used, without causing any misunderstandings, in the sense of whereas (‘although,’ ‘by contrast,’ ‘in comparison with the fact that’). This usage is frowned on by some traditionalists, but while is sometimes preferable, as in contexts in which whereas might sound inappropriately formal: while you say you like her, you've never stood up for her. Whereas is preferable, however, for preventing ambiguity in contexts in which while might be read as referring to time, or might falsely suggest simultaneity: whereas Burton promised to begin at once, he was delayed nine months for lack of funding; whereas Jonas was an excellent planter and cultivator, Julius was a master harvester
While is sometimes used, without causing any misunderstandings, in the sense of whereas (‘although,’ ‘by contrast,’ ‘in comparison with the fact that’). This usage is frowned on by some traditionalists, but while is sometimes preferable, as in contexts in which whereas might sound inappropriately formal: while you say you like her, you've never stood up for her. Whereas is preferable, however, for preventing ambiguity in contexts in which while might be read as referring to time, or might falsely suggest simultaneity: whereas Burton promised to begin at once, he was delayed nine months for lack of funding; whereas Jonas was an excellent planter and cultivator, Julius was a master harvester On the distinction between worth while and worthwhile, see worthwhile. See also awhile

Phrases

  • worth one's while

    • Worth the time or effort spent.

      • ‘Prizes will be up for grabs among the entrants so lots of imagination, humour and effort could be well worth your while.’
      • ‘In doing so, I hope to convince you that running for a Student Government Executive Body position will be worth your while.’
      • ‘It will be worth your while to come and get to know other members where you will get a warm welcome.’
      • ‘Read it, bookmark it, return to it; it will be much worth your while.’
      • ‘Today, discontent tended to make me think it's all a hollow shell, that perhaps all that effort, all that sacrifice, were not worth my while.’
      • ‘You might not agree with everything there, but hopefully you'll find it all provocative, informative, and generally worth your while.’
      • ‘It turns off voters, new voters, or people who have always wanted to vote and have wondered whether it's worth their while.’
      • ‘Then they say it wouldn't be worth their while to continue.’
      • ‘It's very complicated and it's not worth their while.’
      • ‘I promise to work really hard to make it worth your while.’
  • between whiles

    • archaic At intervals.

      ‘add potassium carbonate, shaking vigorously between whiles’
      • ‘These two last, crying between whiles, wondered how the young lady could keep up so this last day, and settled it between them that she was not likely to care much for Helstone, having been so long in London.’
      • ‘And between whiles I had to look after the savage who was a fireman.’
      • ‘He had heroic health; but several times during that journey he experienced fits of giddiness, and between whiles he speculated hazily as to the size of the blister the sun was raising on his back.’

Origin

Old English hwīl ‘period of time’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch wijl, German Weile; the conjunction is an abbreviation of Old English thā hwīle the ‘the while that’.

Pronunciation

while

/(h)waɪl//(h)wīl/