Definition of whirligig in English:



  • 1A toy that spins round, for example a top or windmill.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The wide range of works includes quilts, rugs, needlework, paintings, works on paper, weather vanes, whirligigs, decoys, and painted furniture.’
    • ‘Fun things include making whirligigs, first-place ribbons, preserves, and jams along with staging your own fair.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘While stopped at a red light, the Mrs. noticed a few strange whirligigs perched atop a billboard.’
    • ‘Her Uncle Ob, a disabled World War II veteran, enjoys creating art sculptures in the form of whirligigs and her Aunt May enjoys gardening.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1
      another term for roundabout (sense 2 of the noun)
      • ‘One of those rotatory entertainments commonly seen in fairs, and known by the name of ‘whirligigs’ or ‘roundabouts’.’
    2. 1.2 A process or activity characterized by constant change or hectic activity.
      ‘the whirligig of time’
      • ‘I chose to read this edited collection piecemeal as I attempted to cling on board the whirligig of a new teaching year.’
      • ‘Against the backdrop of Lewis Castle, a whirligig of ceilidhs, concerts and workshops takes place.’
      • ‘Just how the economic whirligig will affect retailers' upfront buys still remains highly subjective.’
      • ‘But then stranger things happen every day in the whirligig of Taiwan life.’
      • ‘The writing and publishing whirligig is, if you will, a lottery.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 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.’
      • ‘The whole whirligig of sights and sounds and bodies rushing forward seemed to be aimed directly at me.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 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’.