Definition of whir in US English:


(also whirr)


[no object]
  • (especially of a machine or a bird's wings) make a low, continuous, regular sound.

    ‘the ceiling fans whirred in the smoky air’
    • ‘The sounds of machines whirring and bells ringing could be heard as far away as a city block.’
    • ‘I could almost hear the cogs whirring in her head.’
    • ‘As the printing press whirred into action for the first edition of the all-new format yesterday, reporter NADIA JEFFERSON-BROWN was on hand to chart the events.’
    • ‘I noticed something was amiss when I checked my email accounts and my mail software froze for a minute or so while the hard drive on my computer whirred.’
    • ‘There were so many machines and servers whirring away in the background I may as well have stayed at my desk.’
    • ‘It was utterly still as his computer fan whirred with constant speed.’
    • ‘We have our talk in his office at the Treasury opposite St James's Park; an extra Treasury tape recorder whirring throughout.’
    • ‘AT 4.48 pm yesterday, on the eve of the biggest news event of the year, the fax machines in newspaper offices across the country whirred into life.’
    • ‘The projector in the middle of the domed theatre clicks and whirs into action, showing a stunning display of the night skies.’
    • ‘Overhead, a drone whirred menacingly, and a helicopter gunship cruised the coast.’
    • ‘This sound was the generator whirring to life once again.’
    • ‘The reassuring sound of a milk float whirring by outside your window in the early morning is now a rarity.’
    • ‘Next to me, Mr. Walker's camera whirred and clicked rapidly.’
    • ‘And this time we leave the tape recorder whirring in the ‘haunted Jacobean bedroom’ for a full half hour.’
    • ‘Between snatches it was not idle, sailing out to intercept a passing fly, then poising in the air with rapidly whirring wings as it neatly picked an insect from the underside of a leaf.’
    • ‘At a very human level, televisions flickered off and air-conditioning units stopped whirring in sweltering heat.’
    • ‘She typed in the details, and then a few seconds later, the printer started whirring at the other end of the desk.’
    • ‘Cobwebs dangled from the ceiling, flitting around as a box fan whirred.’
    • ‘Cameras from all sides pointed at me, whirring mechanically as they changed their angles of attack.’
    • ‘The sounds have been described as drumming, rattling or whirring.’
    hum, humming, buzzing, murmur, drone, whir, whirring, fizz, fizzing, fuzz, hiss, singing, whisper
    hum, drone, bumble, whir, fizz, fuzz, hiss, sing, murmur, whisper
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  • A low, continuous, regular sound.

    ‘the whir of the projector’
    • ‘The rip of gunfire sounded above the whir of the blades.’
    • ‘The only sound was the soft whir of the ship around them.’
    • ‘The clicks and whirrs, the stuttered, granulated melodies, the use of found sound and field recordings find their way onto all nine of the acoustic guitar-centred tracks.’
    • ‘We can all benefit from a little white noise, whether it's the whir of crickets or airplanes overhead.’
    • ‘It was after three a.m. when the whirr of a single projector gave way to the roar of three projectors running simultaneously.’
    • ‘I heard all sorts of mechanical whirrs and beeps.’
    • ‘The only downfall of the exhibition is that, with so many pieces so close together, with so many bleeps and whirrs and whistles around, it can be difficult to focus on only one piece at a time.’
    • ‘I stared off into space, elbows on knees, as I heard the whir and click of the shutter.’
    • ‘They said late-night displays and a constant stream of excessive noise caused by the whirr of rides and screams from thrill-seekers had made their lives a ‘nightmare’.’
    • ‘I heard the beep and the whirr of some kind of machinery, but I couldn't see because my sight was focused on the ceiling.’
    • ‘The only sound that could be heard was the soothing whir of the air vents nearby.’
    • ‘Once we had lined up outside, the whir of the engines sounded.’
    • ‘The whirrs and clicks of several computers filled the room, revealing that there was probably more in it than one would think.’
    • ‘We strolled away from the casino, the clicks and the whirrs and the soft voices of the dealers fading behind us.’
    • ‘NVH leaves in the desirable sounds while damping out whines, whirs, ticks, knocks, and other unwanted mechanical noises.’
    • ‘That is about the same level of noise produced by the whir of an air conditioner or the rumbling of average city traffic.’
    • ‘When the seat back is tipped forward to allow access to the rear, the headrest whirrs down into its lowest position.’
    • ‘The familiar whirr of the tram, the particular clicking noise the indicators make when we pause at stops.’
    • ‘Above the thunderous whir of the aircraft rotors, Nelson and his buddies yelled back and forth, shooting the bull as the copter lifted off.’
    • ‘The images were projected on a white cotton sheet, and the loud whirr of the generator muffled the sound.’
    hum, humming, buzzing, murmur, drone, whir, whirring, fizz, fizzing, fuzz, hiss, singing, whisper
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘move with a whirring sound’): probably of Scandinavian origin; compare with whirl.