Definition of whir in English:


(also whirr)


  • (especially of a machine or a bird's wings) make a low, continuous, regular sound.

    ‘the ceiling fans whirred in the smoky air’
    • ‘She typed in the details, and then a few seconds later, the printer started whirring at the other end of the desk.’
    • ‘I could almost hear the cogs whirring in her head.’
    • ‘Cobwebs dangled from the ceiling, flitting around as a box fan whirred.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘There were so many machines and servers whirring away in the background I may as well have stayed at my desk.’
    • ‘We have our talk in his office at the Treasury opposite St James's Park; an extra Treasury tape recorder whirring throughout.’
    • ‘The sounds of machines whirring and bells ringing could be heard as far away as a city block.’
    • ‘The projector in the middle of the domed theatre clicks and whirs into action, showing a stunning display of the night skies.’
    • ‘The reassuring sound of a milk float whirring by outside your window in the early morning is now a rarity.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Cameras from all sides pointed at me, whirring mechanically as they changed their angles of attack.’
    • ‘At a very human level, televisions flickered off and air-conditioning units stopped whirring in sweltering heat.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It was utterly still as his computer fan whirred with constant speed.’
    • ‘Overhead, a drone whirred menacingly, and a helicopter gunship cruised the coast.’
    • ‘The sounds have been described as drumming, rattling or whirring.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This sound was the generator whirring to life once again.’
    hum, humming, buzzing, murmur, drone, whir, whirring, fizz, fizzing, fuzz, hiss, singing, whisper
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  • A low, continuous, regular sound.

    ‘the whir of the projector’
    • ‘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 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.’
    • ‘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 was the soft whir of the ship around them.’
    • ‘I stared off into space, elbows on knees, as I heard the whir and click of the shutter.’
    • ‘We can all benefit from a little white noise, whether it's the whir of crickets or airplanes overhead.’
    • ‘The whirrs and clicks of several computers filled the room, revealing that there was probably more in it than one would think.’
    • ‘I heard all sorts of mechanical whirrs and beeps.’
    • ‘Above the thunderous whir of the aircraft rotors, Nelson and his buddies yelled back and forth, shooting the bull as the copter lifted off.’
    • ‘We strolled away from the casino, the clicks and the whirrs and the soft voices of the dealers fading behind us.’
    • ‘Once we had lined up outside, the whir of the engines sounded.’
    • ‘The images were projected on a white cotton sheet, and the loud whirr of the generator muffled the sound.’
    • ‘The rip of gunfire sounded above the whir of the blades.’
    • ‘The familiar whirr of the tram, the particular clicking noise the indicators make when we pause at stops.’
    • ‘It was after three a.m. when the whirr of a single projector gave way to the roar of three projectors running simultaneously.’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘The only sound that could be heard was the soothing whir of the air vents nearby.’
    • ‘NVH leaves in the desirable sounds while damping out whines, whirs, ticks, knocks, and other unwanted mechanical noises.’
    • ‘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.’
    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.