Definition of whirligig in US English:



  • 1A toy that spins around, for example, a top or a pinwheel.

    • ‘By 1988, when we devoted our February issue to the museum's holdings, its folk sculptures included carousel animals, whirligigs, weather vanes, decoys, trade signs, and some forty tobacconists' figures of all sizes and types.’
    • ‘For a few hours I was a kid again, reliving memories sparked by the dozens of puppets and paintings, quilts and carvings, weather vanes and whirligigs that combined my two earliest passions - baseball and art.’
    • ‘Most buyers have been delighted by the awkward charms of the animal cutouts nailed to his spinning whirligigs, figures of the red and black devils, crude portraits of Elvis Presley and President Abraham Lincoln.’
    • ‘A decorative arts gallery features the association's excellent scrimshaw collection as well as furniture, needlework, silver, whirligigs, lightship baskets, and sailors' valentines.’
    • ‘From whirligigs to stereoscopes, from toy soldiers to toy kitchens, from horse-drawn fire engines to subway cars, the New York Historical Society houses many toys illustrative of their day and the children who played with them.’
    • ‘Hellboy takes us to extravagant places of doom replete with giant geared contraptions, blazing electromagnetic whirligigs, and daggers that shoot out from walls and floors: a haunted-house look that is pure fun.’
    • ‘The wide range of works includes quilts, rugs, needlework, paintings, works on paper, weather vanes, whirligigs, decoys, and painted furniture.’
    • ‘Behind the cross, crude propeller blades on whirligigs made by local artist R A Miller and planted on Windy Hill, spin and twirl on gusty days.’
    • ‘Fun things include making whirligigs, first-place ribbons, preserves, and jams along with staging your own fair.’
    • ‘Her Uncle Ob, a disabled World War II veteran, enjoys creating art sculptures in the form of whirligigs and her Aunt May enjoys gardening.’
    • ‘While stopped at a red light, the Mrs. noticed a few strange whirligigs perched atop a billboard.’
    1. 1.1
      another term for merry-go-round
      • ‘One of those rotatory entertainments commonly seen in fairs, and known by the name of ‘whirligigs’ or ‘roundabouts’.’
    2. 1.2in singular A thing regarded as hectic or constantly changing.
      ‘the whirligig of time’
      • ‘But then stranger things happen every day in the whirligig of Taiwan life.’
      • ‘Against the backdrop of Lewis Castle, a whirligig of ceilidhs, concerts and workshops takes place.’
      • ‘A time-worn, singular figure, however, bears contrary witness to the whirligig of our global age fraught, as it is, with the fever of frantic speeds, appetites for expanding size, and the vanity of vast numbers.’
      • ‘Finally how fragile it is - choreography that is here today usually is gone tomorrow, lost in either the whirligig of fashion or the roulette-wheel of luck.’
      • ‘The writing and publishing whirligig is, if you will, a lottery.’
      • ‘I chose to read this edited collection piecemeal as I attempted to cling on board the whirligig of a new teaching year.’
      • ‘The whirligig of fashion trends dictated that the look of Zandra back in the Seventies is exactly the look of 2002-gypsy flounces, boots and floaty hippie blouses and dippy hemlines.’
      • ‘Just how the economic whirligig will affect retailers' upfront buys still remains highly subjective.’
      • ‘The whole whirligig of sights and sounds and bodies rushing forward seemed to be aimed directly at me.’
      • ‘The piece is a political whirligig but also a play of ideas, about the politics of life as much as the life of politics, which also includes insights into two very different marriages.’
  • 2A small black predatory beetle which swims rapidly in circles on the surface of still or slow-moving water and dives when alarmed.

    Family Gyrinidae: Gyrinus and other genera

    • ‘That's not wind on the water, it's gyrating whirligig beetles.’


Late Middle English: from whirl + obsolete gig ‘whipping top’.