Definition of whirl in English:



  • 1Move or cause to move rapidly round and round.

    [no object] ‘leaves whirled in eddies of wind’
    [with object] ‘I whirled her round the dance hall’
    ‘a vigorous whirling jig’
    • ‘Instead, the fire whipped and whirled around me, crawling up the walls and ceiling as it coursed through the halls.’
    • ‘Around her whirled a kaleidoscope of unfamiliar faces, a jumbled chorus of voices sounding in ten different languages.’
    • ‘The fog whirled and eddied around her as she stepped out into the cobblestone street.’
    • ‘As they whirled and twirled, moving smoothly to the music, they seemed reunited.’
    • ‘They leave the walls and whirl round her, then fall like snow to the floor.’
    • ‘The cloud seemed to shimmer slightly, and then it coalesced into two whirling dust devils that raced away towards the enemy at phenomenal speed.’
    • ‘This work conveys a sense of elements whirling about with the wind, much as in his In the Beginning; the artist makes good use of sgraffito to create additional designs.’
    • ‘The first thing I noticed was the wind and cold exacerbated by the chopper's whirling blades blasting the freezing air down on us.’
    • ‘It is also helpful to whirl the water round and then break the egg into the centre of the whirlpool.’
    • ‘Scarlet and rust-colored leaves whirled around his feet with the cool wind.’
    • ‘The wind whistled through the trees, making the leaves whirl round Tanon's head.’
    • ‘All these details whirl round the hub of a performance by Stephens that excites decidedly mixed feelings.’
    • ‘She kicked off her sandals and we started dancing; me whirling her round and round while her bare feet flew frivolously over the grass.’
    • ‘But her words fell upon deaf ears, Tane was moving, spinning, whirling around with tears in his eyes.’
    • ‘He took Becki's hands in his and they whirled round and round, until Becki felt rather dizzy.’
    • ‘Predictably, he discovered on arrival at 6.15 on Wednesday night that, while his golf clubs were whirling round the carousel, his luggage had been lost en route.’
    • ‘Will I soon be going to Tea Dances at the village hall, whirling Mrs Skidmore round in a slow waltz in between the cups of weak Typhoo and the Garibaldi biscuits?’
    • ‘The wind grew fiercer, sending leaves and twigs whirling around in the air.’
    • ‘Words peel off from the text and whirl round the reader, who can also hit the words so that they bounce back to the walls, sometimes taking up different positions from before.’
    • ‘Every time a Philly player scores a home run, a huge illuminated ‘liberty bell’ will whirl around, flash and chime repeatedly.’
    rotate, turn, turn round, go round, revolve, circle, wheel, orbit, pivot, swivel, gyrate, spin, roll, twirl, pirouette
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    1. 1.1Move or cause to move rapidly.
      [no object, with adverbial of direction] [no object] ‘Sybil stood waving as they whirled past’
      figurative ‘a kaleidoscope of images whirled through her brain’
      • ‘He slammed the brakes as the world whirled around and past him.’
      • ‘Eventually, Samantha whirled past me and saw my predicament.’
      • ‘I pushed past him and whirled down stairs, to see if he was playing tricks with me.’
      • ‘Owen, at his most alert and intuitive, spun round to whirl the ball beyond Ricardo with his right foot.’
      • ‘Before Matt could reply, the woman had whirled past him and stopped about two inches from my face.’
      • ‘Whole afternoons must whirl past in a daze at Highgrove with hundreds of people rushing about.’
      • ‘Gleaming white walls whirled past his sight and then deep blue shadows.’
      • ‘The world whirled past me in a blur, and I didn't stop for anything.’
      • ‘She whirls into the room, waving what looks like an old dishcloth.’
      hurry, speed, race, run, sprint, dash, bolt, dart, rush, hasten, hurtle, career, streak, shoot, whizz, zoom, go like lightning, go hell for leather, spank along, bowl along, rattle along, whoosh, buzz, swoop, flash, blast, charge, stampede, gallop, sweep, hare, fly, wing, scurry, scud, scutter, scramble
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    2. 1.2[no object](of the head, mind, or senses) seem to spin round.
      ‘Kate made her way back to the office, her mind whirling’
      • ‘All he knew was that his brain was whirling, his throat was burning, and everything was all wrong.’
      • ‘She left them, and made her way back to her bunk, her mind whirling.’
      • ‘I am unable to stand up, and my mind whirls around.’
      • ‘It seemed as though her body was dissolving, and as the potency rose, that her mind was whirling, spinning free of her.’
      • ‘Mind whirling, he turned and headed back inside.’
      • ‘I'm still drunk and my head whirls around endlessly.’
      • ‘My mind is whirling so quickly, I can't even think.’
      • ‘His brow furrowed in contemplation, his mind whirling.’
      • ‘My mind was whirling with unanswered questions.’
      • ‘Her mind was whirling with what a sight that would be when his coughing brought her back to reality and out of dream land.’
      • ‘Mind whirling with sudden recognition, I placed her in my memory as the girl I'd noticed at Demitrav's office.’
      • ‘He was once again stoic and calculating, the face was blank, but she could sense that behind it his mind was whirling.’
      • ‘Clutching the tightly wrapped parcel in her hands, she poked her head out again, only to draw it back inside with a quickness that left her heart pounding and her mind whirling.’
      • ‘Elise stared at the missive, brain whirling with unspoken questions.’
      • ‘Still, my mind whirls as the ground comes crashing upwards, ending in a bone-jarring snap.’
      • ‘But how can you sack out when your brain is whirling over tomorrow's three tests, cheerleading tryouts and your latest crush?’
      • ‘Her mind was whirling too, and before she could think it was a loud, unexpected ‘splash’, and she was thrown into the depth of a blue lake.’
      • ‘I stared out the window, my mind spinning and whirling.’
      • ‘Her mind was whirling with the fact that he'd kissed her back.’
      • ‘My mind whirls; I knew that all of Leo's business transactions weren't going to be the right side of the law, but for the government to be involved shocked me.’
      spin, reel, go round, be in a whirl, swim, be giddy, feel giddy, be dizzy, feel dizzy
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  • 1[in singular] A rapid movement round and round.

    • ‘The tempestuous whirl of circum-Antarctic waters is also responsible for their being among the most fertile in the world.’
    • ‘The rainbows of colour scattered around the room coupled with the whirl of the spinning wheels when they are put into motion is an amazing combination and makes for a very comfortable atmosphere.’
    • ‘The whirl of snow rises up next to me becoming bigger than life, completely engulfs me and quickly passes over.’
    • ‘‘It's been almost three years,’ Carl mused, looking at the colorful whirls of dancers in front of him.’
    • ‘Vesper led Imite on a series of terrifying whirls, wheeling through the starry sky.’
    • ‘The place is now a mad whirl of gyrating bodies and the music seems louder than ever.’
    swirl, flurry, eddy
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    1. 1.1Frantic activity of a specified kind.
      ‘the event was all part of the mad social whirl’
      • ‘But the breathless whirl of activity has an odd calm at its centre.’
      • ‘Modern life whizzes by at a frantic pace and we mere mortals find ourselves in a constant whirl trying to find ways of catching up.’
      • ‘They and the whole class they represent will spend the rest of the summer living it up at a whirl of social events.’
      • ‘The central character of the book is Bunny Maguire, who is launched into the Dublin social whirl and takes to it like a duck to water.’
      • ‘It was a whirl of motion; things moved so fast Chrysta could hardly keep up.’
      • ‘My trip, which included Madeira and a whistle-stop tour of the Canary Islands, was filled with a controlled whirl of almost non-stop activities and fun.’
      • ‘In a whirl of activity, the team boarded the aircraft with well over 500 pounds of precious lifesaving equipment.’
      • ‘The rest was a whirl of action and until I got home, it didn't calm down.’
      • ‘He feels that he is treated differently because of his shyness and social phobia - that there is a stigma in this society if one is not caught up in a social whirl.’
      • ‘The weekend passed in a non-stop whirl of sporting events and activities.’
      • ‘It's all a giddy whirl round here, I can tell you.’
      • ‘Galway will be a whirl of activity and colour from Tuesday, when the 26th Galway Arts Festival comes to life.’
      • ‘And two years after retiring from athletics for the third time in her 31-year life, she is still part of the whirl, unable quite yet to jump off the merry-go-round.’
      • ‘From a quiet downtown office Ian Gordon looks down on the whirl of Vancouver's business district but can't make himself believe that what he sees each day, just a few meters from his window, is real.’
      • ‘Together they were the centre of the social whirl, whether in New York or living the ex-pat life in Paris.’
      • ‘Mac wrenched her eyes away from his with a gasp and suddenly everything was a whirl of motion.’
      • ‘She enjoyed the novelty of the catwalks and fashion shoots and loved the social whirl that went with it, using parties and functions to network.’
      • ‘Summer is over, and autumn is a whirl of activities at our house.’
      • ‘Gradually the square becomes a whirl of people.’
      • ‘We look around and smell the aromas, growing ever more curious about the whirl of activity surrounding us.’
      hurly-burly, hectic activity, bustle, rush, flurry, to-do, fuss, panic, turmoil
      succession, series, sequence, progression, string, chain, cycle, round, merry-go-round
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  • 2[with adjective or noun modifier] A specified kind of sweet or biscuit with a spiral shape.

    ‘a hazelnut whirl’
    • ‘A collection of male senior employees gather in the boardroom to talk to Balls over coffee and Viennese whirls.’
    • ‘Towards the end Alex pronounced herself bored and I caught myself trying to come up with a suitable answer to the question ‘how do you make a Viennese whirl?’’
    • ‘This is piped out into individual chocolate-size whirls and left to dry overnight.’


  • give something a whirl

    • informal Give something a try.

      • ‘Mandy told me she was participating ‘because my friend told me he was doing it, it sounded like fun, and so I decided to give it a whirl.’’
      • ‘She said: ‘One day I thought I would give it a whirl and I found that I actually really enjoyed it.’’
      • ‘If you've always been curious about the traditional English breakfast, give it a whirl here - they even have a veggie option (minus the black pudding).’
      • ‘So do give the new album a whirl if you haven't yet, and try listening to it as a descendent of the 60's rather than the 70's and see what you think.’
      • ‘I haven't actually tried that particular trick before, but I thought I might give it a whirl and see what happens.’
      • ‘This service might not work for everyone but it is certainly worth registering for the seven-day free trial and giving it a whirl.’
      • ‘I popped it in the CD-ROM drive to give it a whirl.’
      • ‘The best way to truly understand it is to give it a whirl.’
      • ‘Then in 2001 I heard about blogging and thought I'd give it a whirl.’
      • ‘So break out the mixing bowls and give these recipes a whirl.’
      try, try-out, test
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  • in a whirl

    • In a state of confusion.

      ‘Laura's mind was in a whirl’
      • ‘My mind was in a whirl and I didn't know what to do.’
      • ‘Just thinking about the implications of getting the position have had my mind in a whirl all weekend.’
      • ‘I had never had so many articles of clothing, and the silver and bone brushes, combs, and manicure tools in the kit left me feeling as if my head were in a whirl.’
      • ‘All this summer's got my head in a whirl, though, and I can barely concentrate.’
      • ‘Edward was in the stunned process of thanking him, his head still all in a whirl with the terrible news, when the squire entered the room again, followed by Ellen.’
      • ‘As usual, these sorts of fluctuations set the market in a whirl, with mixed reactions to the improvement in the pound's value.’
      • ‘His mind had been in a whirl since his brief meeting at the Devon house with Marie Devon and the enigmatic Lisa.’
      • ‘My head was in a whirl with all that I was seeing, and I kept pleading with the baron to make our cab go slower so I could look around.’
      • ‘Keziah sat down at the back of the group, her mind in a whirl.’
      • ‘Harrogate Town are getting in a whirl ahead of the new season following the announcement of Jacuzzi UK as the club's new sponsors.’
      spin, daze, stupor, muddle, jumble
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Middle English: the verb probably from Old Norse hvirfla turn about; the noun partly from Middle Low German, Middle Dutch wervel spindle, or from Old Norse hvirfill circle, from a Germanic base meaning rotate.