Definition of whistle in English:



  • 1A clear, high-pitched sound made by forcing breath through a small hole between partly closed lips, or between one's teeth.

    • ‘All the men howled at that and there were a few whistles.’
    • ‘As the march swung past Number 10 there was a cacophony of whistles, boos, jeers and insults.’
    • ‘The odd whistle and occasional murmur slipped through from the usually voluble Parisians but otherwise they remained as unemotional as the protagonists on court.’
    • ‘He stepped back amongst the sound of cheers and whistles.’
    • ‘A light symphony of human whistles and snores were generating around the small office.’
    • ‘He put his fingers to his mouth and gave a loud whistle to signal his men.’
    • ‘Sam turned around at the noise of whistles and laughter from the others.’
    • ‘Justin gave a low whistle as he signaled to a waiter for a seat.’
    • ‘People went berserk with whistles and claps when he presented ‘Tere mere beech mein,’ a number from Ek Duje Ke Liye.’
    • ‘As was expected, his special appearance was greeted with whistles and applause that reverberated through the night.’
    • ‘With nicely-toned muscles Rahul Dev was the one who attracted maximum whistles, catcalls and applause, more than even the women models.’
    • ‘The Doc let out a whistle from between his teeth.’
    • ‘Sure enough, seconds later, a series of whistles, high-pitched and low, rolled up the hillside.’
    • ‘She was about to explain, when a high-pitched whistle from somewhere in the middle of the soldiers sounded.’
    • ‘The march was very lively, with whistles and shouts echoing round the town.’
    • ‘Quickfall got down to stripping nearly naked and had the audience roaring with laughter, whistles and applause.’
    • ‘Behind them, the man in the cowboy hat let out a whistle and they stopped.’
    • ‘The whistles and catcalls reached earsplitting levels whenever the Americans had the ball.’
    • ‘An appreciative whistle echoed up from his sister, Grace.’
    • ‘There are whistles echoing around the ground - no one's taking too kindly to the patient keep-ball being played by the French already.’
    clapping, handclapping, cheering, whistling, ovation, standing ovation, acclamation, cheers, whistles, bravos
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    1. 1.1 A shrill, high-pitched sound.
      ‘the whistle of the boiling kettle’
      • ‘Following Cullen's goal, Padraig Kenny fired over three quick points before the final whistle sounded for a stunned Gortletteragh.’
      • ‘The Tramore defence was unyielding, however, and the final whistle sounded as Richard Hickey cleared the ball to midfield.’
      • ‘The ground cleared in a flash when the whistle sounded for half time’
      • ‘Hall, a close friend of the 20-year-old, was especially delighted that Routledge received a standing ovation on the final whistle.’
      • ‘Brian Foste's well struck shot to goalie Tom Nolan's left was greeted by cheers by the home supporters and less than a minute later the final whistle sounded.’
      • ‘Shortly after, Bernard Duff sounded the final whistle.’
      • ‘The city itself is a spectacle to behold, with dazzling lights, beeps and whistles, and the sound of change going ‘jingle jangle’ all night long.’
      • ‘The music of the spheres turns out to be a mixture of whistles, chirrups, howls, static and something that sounds like chattering voices.’
      • ‘But today, the engine's whistles were sounding again and its 70-ton, 27 ft high flywheel was turning for the first time in more than 30 years.’
      • ‘A sensitive microphone placed close to the eardrum typically records a faint hum, but in many human subjects clear whistles can be picked up on top of the background buzz.’
      • ‘It will not be the crowd or the prospect of penalties that will induce butterflies in the game's most hyped striker, nor even thoughts of the first whistle sounding at 8pm.’
      • ‘He described the male call as a high-pitched whistle repeating a long, drawn-out KI-WI sound about 30 times.’
      • ‘Its call is a series of clear, hollow whistles, all on one pitch.’
      • ‘South Africa attacked from the opening whistle forcing mistakes from the England side.’
      • ‘But the final whistle was greeted with roars of joy mixed with relief from the Holte End as the score from the Stadium Of Light filtered through.’
      • ‘Resident orcas are highly vocal and communicate with a learned repertoire of clicks, whistles and squeals.’
      • ‘They have a variety of calls usually described as whistles, rattles, trills, squeaks or screams.’
      • ‘The final whistle sounded seconds afterwards and Towers had survived.’
      • ‘A cacophony of booms and whistles and bangs plays around us, and we eat popcorn and watch the sky explode.’
      • ‘All I could hear was a series of piercing bangs and whistles and orange lights.’
      trill, trilling, song, birdsong, cry, warbling, chirp, chirping, chirrup, chirruping, chirr, chirring, cheep, cheeping, twitter, twittering, tweet, tweeting, whistle, whistling, chatter, chattering, squeak, squeaking, pipe, piping, peep, peeping, call, calling
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    2. 1.2 An instrument used to produce a shrill, high-pitched sound, especially for giving a signal.
      • ‘The music is a unique sound of Irish folk ballads, traditional tunes with vocals accompanied by bazouki, bodhran, harmonicas and whistles.’
      • ‘Their effort, worthless in itself, merely a means to an end - the finishing line or the factory whistle signaling the end of the workday.’
      • ‘Ten minutes later the gym teacher, Mr. Johnson, huffed into his whistle signaling the end of the class.’
      • ‘The train whistle blew twice, signaling that the two o'clock train was going to pull out of the station.’
      • ‘Trumpets and whistles competed with the sound of African drums as the noisy march made its way through the city centre.’
      • ‘The teacher took out his whistle and signaled to begin.’
      • ‘Their robust, carnivalesque dance-beat, accompanied by whistles, sounds like party night in an Ibizan superclub.’
      • ‘These include harps, lyres, whistles, horns, pan-pipes, bones, psalteries and some form of drum.’
      • ‘Apparently the fans were enjoying the proceedings on the pitch when Banda pre-maturely blew the whistle to signal the end of the thrilling encounter.’
      • ‘There was screaming and yelling and the blowing of whistles and it sounded for a moment like someone had opened the gates to hell.’
      • ‘He plays Celtic whistle, didgeridoo, panpipes, flute and bass flute in his trademark blend of Celtic, classical, jazz and folk music.’
      • ‘He got his first musical instrument - a whistle, at the age of seven from a neighbour, Bernie Marren.’
      • ‘Among the principal musical instruments are tam-tams, pottery drums, goat-horn whistles and flutes, and gourd-cala-bash horns.’
      • ‘Protesters are invited to bring kazoos, whistles, pots, pans and biscuit tins and to meet at 11.30 am at Speakers Corner.’
      • ‘As the referee's whistle sounded to signal the foul, Mark crashed hard, landing awkwardly on his left ankle.’
      • ‘The woodwind players are sometimes asked to play ocarinas, those strange lemon-shaped clay whistles with simple finger-holes all over them.’
      • ‘Boris had the crowd enthralled with his dexterity on the whistle and harmonica.’
      • ‘The works required four trumpets, three trombones, one tuba, and several percussion instruments including bells & whistles!’
      • ‘She was out by the playground when the whistle blew, signaling the end of lunch recess.’
      • ‘Wendy Gamble, president of the New Toronto Historical Society, describes a time when factory whistles sounded around town and workers would walk to work.’
      siren, warning sound, alarm signal, danger signal, distress signal, alert
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  • 2British informal A suit.

    • ‘We're talking a monkey for a decent whistle, a pony for a tee-shirt.’
    outfit, set of clothes, costume, ensemble
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  • 1no object Emit a clear, high-pitched sound by forcing breath through a small hole between one's lips or teeth.

    ‘the audience cheered and whistled’
    • ‘I whistled loudly and a moving van obediently heeded my call and pulled up right next to me.’
    • ‘And so, Peter Howard strolled back towards the lower engine compartment, cheerfully whistling under his breath.’
    • ‘So there I was, hands stuffed in the pockets of my dark blue sweat pants, whistling cheerfully and thinking of escape with all the zest of a death row convict.’
    • ‘The boys took deep breaths and started whistling.’
    • ‘She whistled, a high pitch noise that she figured would get his attention, and he turned around to look at her.’
    • ‘They broke into spontaneous clapping, cheering and whistling when the Band of the Irish Guards played Happy Birthday for the Queen at the end of the parade as a surprise.’
    • ‘Now he whistles through his teeth, lives in a modest London flat and is threatening to release an album.’
    • ‘The audience cheered and whistled, but the happy couple was oblivious.’
    • ‘He whistled through his teeth, a high pitched sound that grated on the human ears.’
    • ‘Tinnitus is a condition where the sufferer hears intermittent or continuous ringing, hissing, whistling, roaring or buzzing noises in one or both ears.’
    • ‘Hayley's husband Greg walked along side her for the whole 5km cheering and whistling, providing the encouragement she needed to win.’
    • ‘The Congresswoman is whistling through her teeth.’
    • ‘And I don't think many people know of another trait of this many-faceted genius: that he could whistle beautifully.’
    • ‘He surprised himself by whistling as he began the walk from his house to Janice's.’
    • ‘Noah was whistling softly under his breath, his fingers tapping gently to the beat of a song on the radio.’
    • ‘The crowd roared to life, cheering and whistling loudly.’
    • ‘To my surprise I could whistle the entire guitar solo - it's been locked in my brain all these years, waiting.’
    • ‘Even now, you only have to hum a bar or two of its chorus, and pretty soon everyone around you will be humming or whistling, or singing along under their breath.’
    • ‘At the showing the audience cheered, whistled, rocked with laughter, but all were moved, and were very proud.’
    • ‘One sunny morning both children were sitting on the back steps; Bob was whistling between his teeth and staring into nothingness so Brigid wisely kept quiet.’
    breathe audibly, breathe noisily, gasp, whistle, hiss, rasp, croak, pant, cough
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    1. 1.1with object Produce (a tune) by whistling.
      ‘the postman whistled an old Rolling Stones number’
      • ‘Michael Grant simply whistled some tunes from the SFA song book.’
      • ‘The figure slowly walked into the room whistling a familiar tune of one of his favorite bands.’
      • ‘Though private radio has sustained painful financial losses so far, their executives are still walking about whistling a cheery tune.’
      • ‘Yet while they sing naturally, songbirds are also trained by their owners, who spend many hours whistling tunes at them, or playing birdsong on tape as examples to follow.’
      • ‘Stephen came strolling in, whistling a tune he had just heard on the radio.’
      • ‘With that she walked away whistling a tune off the top of her head.’
      • ‘Sanjeet let himself out, whistling a tune from a 1960's movie.’
      • ‘One of the more memorable scenes in the book, at least for me, has Smith observing a working-class woman whistling a tune while hanging out the washing.’
      • ‘Mark was a large, strong guy who looked as if he could take care of troublesome people while whistling a merry tune.’
      • ‘The birds, which were stolen from an aviary in Salisbury last month, were rescued by police after a member of the public heard them whistling the distinctive tune.’
      • ‘His classmates told me how good Robert was at whistling and he whistled a tune for me.’
      • ‘He whistled an old song he had memorized and stared at the sea.’
      • ‘Other than that, it's 6.30 ish, so I'm away to Oxford, whistling a happy tune and lugging a bag that feels like I've packed it for about a month.’
      • ‘The most natural way to express joy is to whistle a happy tune.’
      • ‘And then once more, he marched off, whistling a merry tune as he went.’
      • ‘I might as well be walking around with my college scarf, crest blazing, whistling a tune.’
      • ‘Ungainly but smooth, this theme gives the audience something to whistle on the way home.’
      • ‘For example, on one occasion he embarked on the story of his first marriage and ended up telling me how he likes to whistle tunes in the street.’
      • ‘Julius smiled and began whistling an old tune he liked as he walked down one of the many corridors of the colony.’
      • ‘We were trying to throw the poles aside while whistling a merry tune.’
      fizz, fizzle, whistle, wheeze, buzz, shrill
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    2. 1.2 Emit a shrill, high-pitched sound.
      ‘the kettle began to whistle’
      • ‘She heard the late birds chirp, the crickets whistle, the stray dogs howl.’
      • ‘The kettle began to whistle, and she broke herself out of her reverie and made two mugs of tea.’
      • ‘When the kettle began whistling, I turned around to get the hot water for my green tea.’
      • ‘A howler monkey screamed in the tree tops and frogs and cicadas and other creatures he could not name whistled and chirped in the dark.’
      • ‘The train whistled and slowly began its entrance to the London station.’
      • ‘When it began to whistle she took it off and poured the hot water into two mugs.’
      • ‘The kettle on the stove whistled sharply, interrupting her thoughts.’
      call, calls, calling, chirp, chirps, chirping, cheep, cheeps, cheeping, peep, peeps, peeping, chirrup, chirrups, chirruping, warble, warbles, warbling, trill, trills, trilling, twitter, twittering, whistling, piping, birdsong
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    3. 1.3no object, with adverbial Produce a shrill, high-pitched sound by moving rapidly through the air or a narrow opening.
      ‘the wind was whistling down the chimney’
      • ‘She awoke the next morning to the sound of chirping birds and the wind whistling through the trees.’
      • ‘His breath whistles through his teeth as he climbs.’
      • ‘Instantly the whole hill became spotted with white puffs of smoke, and bullets began to whistle through our little grove.’
      • ‘I sat there, with the sun beating down on me, the wind whistling in my hair and the sound of a buzzard overhead looking for prey.’
      • ‘This section of road was flat and not having the wind whistling through our helmets we became acutely aware of just how isolated and tranquil our surroundings were.’
      • ‘Katie heard the distinct sounds of water gurgling and wind whistling though caves in the rock.’
      • ‘Strong north-westerly winds whistling around Blackpool's cavernous Winter Gardens this week appear to have blown away the Conservatives.’
      • ‘The wind was whistling through the many holes but, fortunately for us, the return trip was to be made over the North Sea instead of the usual route over Europe.’
      • ‘The weather contributes to the feeling with winds whistling through the towns and rain lashing against our windows.’
      • ‘One of the huge stained-glass windows on the north side of the building had been removed, allowing a bitterly cold wind to whistle around the building.’
      • ‘The mountains had always been my refuge; in the wind whistling through the crevices, I have long found peaceful reassurance.’
      • ‘A biting wind blew furiously, whistling against the peak and making the clouds swirl about like ghosts.’
      • ‘Cold winds whistled through the railings on the Jacksonville Beach Pier one morning last week.’
      • ‘They were standing in a butcher shop, with the wind whistling through the cracks around the door.’
      • ‘The only sound is the wind whistling through the tall pines.’
      • ‘More of the bullets seemed to be whistling past the gaping holes rather than creating any kind of impact with the afflicted target.’
      • ‘The wind whistled through the holes in my woolly hat, rather defying the point of wearing it in the first place.’
      • ‘All you could hear was the wind whistling through the stadium’
      • ‘Time to dust off the old Harley, head out of town, and start feeling that wind whistling through your hair.’
      • ‘‘The wind used to whistle through the door but not any longer,’ said Mr Ellis, who has lived in the house for 15 years.’
    4. 1.4 Blow a whistle, especially as a signal.
      ‘the referee did not whistle for a foul’
      • ‘Ajet's header under pressure had put him in between the two last defenders, but referee Mr L. Williams spurned the chance to play advantage and whistled for the foul on the provider.’
      • ‘Top of the list of Rathvilly errors was over-carrying, which the referee whistled for time and again.’
      • ‘The remainder of the first period saw the two clubs whistled for a pair of penalties each, but neither side could capitalize on the ensuing power plays.’
      • ‘Minutes later UW's parade to the penalty box continued when Della Mora was whistled for slashing.’
      • ‘Referee Karl Kirkpatrick was the dominant figure in the opening exchanges, whistling 13 penalties in the first half before dishing out four yellow cards in the second.’
      • ‘Fear of cold doomed them before the ref even whistled play to begin.’
      • ‘Referee Brian Crowe started as he meant to go on: whistling for even the slightest indiscretion.’
      • ‘Referee George Mitchell whistled for a penalty which Scott Crabbe converted.’
      • ‘The game was stuck in the middle of the pitch for long periods as both teams cancelled each other out and the referee constantly whistled for minor offences stopping either side gaining momentum.’
      • ‘Receiving a clearance on his own 22, he made a burst beyond halfway and then was promptly and harshly whistled for not releasing by referee Simon McDowell.’
      • ‘Urs Meier, the Swiss referee, appears to have stopped whistling fouls against either team.’
      • ‘That would have been harsh, but it was even more baffling when it emerged later that Mr East whistled for a spot-kick because of a handball by Paul Groves.’
      • ‘No more than the rest of us, the referee couldn't see what was coming and instead of leaving the advantage to develop he whistled for a free to Laois while Fitzpatrick was in full flow.’
      • ‘And when Tyrone Howe allowed a Troncon box kick to bounce just short of the Irish line, his team was fortunate that the referee whistled for an earlier offence and also that Pilat missed the kick.’
      • ‘Referee Declan Corcoran had a busy match, whistling for 45 frees and flashing no less than eight yellow cards in what was a very stop-start game throughout.’
      • ‘He cleared decisively, pumping his fist at the animated and ecstatic stand as the ref whistled for the last time.’
    5. 1.5whistle someone/something upwith object Summon something or someone by blowing a whistle.
      • ‘Whistle Up a Texas Fried Turkey!’
      • ‘We sell these world wide to hotels who use them for the concierge to whistle up a taxi!’
      • ‘Some might think that a reunion can be whistled up but it takes time and careful planning to make it a success.’
      • ‘It’s time to whistle up a profit on mining shares.’
      • ‘A group of Carlow coursing owners laid a sawdust all-weather straight gallop at Ballinabranna, where the dogs are whistled up, and usually behind a lead dog.’
  • 2no object Wish for or expect (something) in vain.

    ‘you can go home and whistle for your wages’
    • ‘You can whistle for your inquiry into the murder of so-called ‘informants’.’
    • ‘Bacall’s is told it can whistle for its late licence.’
    • ‘Yeah, I only get to see something about twice a year but they can whistle for my money so long as they promote this animalistic behaviour.’
    • ‘He is, after all, a navy veteran who whistles for his children, a widower withdrawn so deeply into mourning that he flees from the memories that possess his home.’
    • ‘Meanwhile Ballina is still whistling for funding for a marina at the local Quay.’


  • blow the whistle on

    • informal Bring an illicit activity to an end by informing on (the person responsible).

      • ‘Ordinary people are probably afraid to blow the whistle on gangsters who would just as soon shoot them dead as not.’
      • ‘Bedard had contended she was forced out of her job at Via after trying to blow the whistle on sponsorship-related activities she saw there.’
      • ‘Turnbull is the only one of the 50 subjects so far to blow the whistle on what he now believes is a scandal.’
      • ‘A new Moscow police web site lets users download passport applications and migration cards and even blow the whistle on crooked officers.’
      • ‘Problems started after mother-of-four Mrs Conway blew the whistle on what she regarded as bad management practices at a residential home in Redditch where she worked from 1994.’
      • ‘Since 1998, with the introduction of the Public Interest Disclosure Act, employees have been entitled to legal protection if they blow the whistle on wrongdoing.’
      • ‘When Carolyn Hewson quit the AMP board in December 2001, she had a chance to blow the whistle on the disaster that lay ahead.’
      • ‘But she blew the whistle on what she believed was misconduct in the military, and in 2000, she was dismissed on medical grounds.’
      • ‘Workers find it hard to blow the whistle on wrong-doing - witness Mitsubishi Motors and Bridgestone, which managed for years to cover up defects in cars and tyres, respectively.’
      • ‘A premier team of West Yorkshire police officers is preparing to blow the whistle on soccer thugs who might be planning to disrupt Euro 2004.’
      • ‘Teacher Carroll, 66, confided in the then Abbott of the monastery - but his catalogue of abuse was only revealed when a psychologist brought in to help him blew the whistle on his crimes.’
      • ‘And we all know what happens to people who blow the whistle on conspiracy theories, don't we?’
      • ‘So, Mark Felt was convicted of Cointelpro operations including countless break-ins, but he is now famous for blowing the whistle on another group of burglars.’
      • ‘Residents on a troubled Lancaster estate are bring urged to blow the whistle on noxious neighbours.’
      • ‘A couple of years ago on The Health Report we covered the story of Nancy Oliveri, a Canadian doctor who blew the whistle on what she considered was unethical drug research at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.’
      • ‘An RAAF airman who blew the whistle on that drug activity has claimed he's since been ostracised and his career jeopardised, claims rejected by the RAAF.’
      • ‘One way to lose friends but perhaps gain wider influence is to blow the whistle on what your conscience tells you is sharp practice, by government or employer.’
      • ‘Other cases getting the brush-off involve federal employees blowing the whistle on security lapses and fraud.’
      • ‘Which brave journalist blew the whistle on the scam?’
      • ‘Moxon and James Cameron - the former British consul in Bucharest, who was also suspended after he blew the whistle on a visa scam there - plan to take the government to employment tribunals.’
      detect, discover, come across, stumble across, stumble on, chance on, hit on, encounter, find, find out, turn up, unearth, dig up, dredge up, root out, hunt out, nose out, ferret out, grub out, disinter, extricate
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  • (as) clean as a whistle

    • 1Extremely clean or clear.

      • ‘I insisted Jon have a CT scan, a calcium scan, and he came up clean as a whistle.’
      • ‘More importantly for our purposes, the all-digital source material transfers to DVD clean as a whistle.’
      • ‘An abdominal computerized tomographic scan was clean as a whistle except for a fatty liver, and a gallbladder hepatobiliary scan also was negative.’
      • ‘Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute's warning.’
      • ‘Technically, Owen Moriarty's playing is as clean as a whistle with tonally strong projection.’
      • ‘After my digestive tract was clean as a whistle, and I looked like an extra from Schindler's List, it was time to get a look inside of me and see what was wrong.’
      • ‘All recordings have come up as clean as a whistle and the album is a fine memorial to another conductor who was so tragically short lived.’
      • ‘The colors are crisp and clear, the picture as clean as a whistle.’
      • ‘This property is clean as a whistle and move in ready.’
      • ‘The production is clean as a whistle and as smooth as a newly varnished coffee table.’
      • ‘The next morning your kettle will be clean as a whistle.’
      • ‘The congreso (the local government) has a traditionally tight grip on the community, and like the other Kuna villages we visited, the place is clean as a whistle, with not a bit of trash in sight.’
      • ‘Well no, but its excellent rollaway hood, complete with dinky peak, keeps you dry and clean as a whistle.’
      • ‘I think some actors probably find it frustrating, because he likes things clean as a whistle, unadorned, and unemotional, generally speaking.’
      • ‘I noticed that it was brand new and clean as a whistle.’
      • ‘My music will never sound as well-produced as some techno record that sounds clean as a whistle.’
      sanitary, clean, germ-free, dirt-free, disinfected, sterilized, sterile, antiseptic, aseptic, uninfected, unpolluted, uncontaminated, salubrious, healthy, pure, wholesome
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      1. 1.1informal Free of incriminating evidence.
        ‘the cops raided the warehouse but the place was clean as a whistle’
        • ‘Are the other political parties immune to this disease and therefore as clean as a whistle in this regard?’
        • ‘Especially considering yesterday we thought this was one clean as a whistle kid, and then today we find out there was a very real possibility he was into drugs.’
        • ‘British agriculture on the whole is as clean as a whistle, compared to some other parts of Europe.’
        • ‘As far as I can tell, Jeremy Luke's as clean as a whistle.’
        • ‘If he was clean as a whistle, would they be willing to do this?’
        • ‘‘This is as clean as a whistle,’ Welch said in October at a press conference announcing the purchase.’
        • ‘The computer is as clean as a whistle.’
        • ‘But that does not mean the remainder of the existing commercial loan portfolio is as clean as a whistle.’
        • ‘Testing on samples from the suspicious cow is continuing but all tests done to date show that ‘she was clean as a whistle’, said the veterinarian.’
        • ‘I'm not saying I was clean as a whistle back then, but I did learn to read music.’
        • ‘So i arrive at the call and get to work, and what do you know there's a 40 gig hard drive, clean as a whistle.’
        • ‘Even if you're clean as a whistle, you're guilty by association.’
        • ‘‘[This] is a blow-by-blow fight… in the trenches of bureaucracy,’ cautions Githongo, who is known to be clean as a whistle.’
        • ‘Similarly, those seeking to control crime, and raise consequential consumer confidence, must appear to be clean as a whistle.’
        • ‘His men have not been averse to the odd mistake or two, but for the most part yesterday - or at least for as long as it mattered - they were as clean as a whistle.’
        • ‘This could result in a situation where you apply for, say, a personal loan, but get turned down for it even though your own credit report is as clean as a whistle.’
        • ‘He is as clean as a whistle, so darn popular and a Christian to boot.’
        • ‘She's as clean as a whistle, but you, you obviously had something to do with this mess.’
        • ‘Thereafter Abbey should have a business as clean as a whistle, enabling it to focus on its personal financial services side.’
        • ‘One of ITV1's most popular shows, The X Factor, opens its vote lines on Saturday and Sir Michael promised: "We are absolutely confident it will be clean as a whistle as a result of the Deloitte process."’
  • whistle something down the wind

    • 1Let something go; abandon something.

      • ‘Don't let the little ones near it unless you can afford to whistle it down the wind.’
    • 2Turn a trained hawk loose by casting it off with the wind.

      • ‘A falcon born and raised as a hunting bird can be whistled down the wind and return to the wild as if it had been there all its life.’
  • whistle in the dark

    • Pretend to be unafraid.

      • ‘It is not just a survival technique for whistling in the dark to keep our spirits up, but it is an encounter with the reality within which we live.’
      • ‘It is time to speak openly about the concerns of its citizens, and stop whistling in the dark and resorting to political niceties.’
      • ‘This is not because they are whistling in the dark to keep their spirits up, but because, if they show signs of gloom, the world will take that as a cue to plunge into depression.’
      • ‘Nobody knows what it will look like ten years from now, and anyone who claims to is just whistling in the dark.’
      • ‘You are whistling in the dark if you think the US economy is on the up and up.’
      • ‘But if past performance is any indication of Turner's entrepreneurial expertise, they may be whistling in the dark.’
      • ‘And with Christie dodging everyone, and whistling in the dark to scare away the bogeymen dogging him, we can't expect much.’
      • ‘I'm probably whistling in the dark, but if Martin Cullen is reading this, or any of those people close to him, perhaps around the Cabinet table some day they might throw out the suggestion I am making to Minister Michael McDowell.’
      • ‘Although the company outlook says it is seeing signs of recovery in the US and the UK, and is well positioned for an upturn, this sounds like whistling in the dark.’
      • ‘When the Pope left in 1979 describing Ireland as ‘semper fidelis’ (always faithful) it seemed to some a sentimental whistling in the dark.’
      • ‘If so, the ministerial campaign to reverse the decision they announced yesterday may make more sense than it appears to - but you would be whistling in the dark to believe there is much chance of it happening soon.’
      • ‘He was brushed aside as a quaint American naïf whistling in the dark.’
      • ‘To put together five-year spending plans in such an environment and to make projections on income over the period is whistling in the dark.’
      • ‘I suppose all this fitness and training is a whistle in the dark; it's an attempt to stay alive for ever.’
      • ‘For now, that sounds like whistling in the dark.’
      • ‘Much of this is just fake innocence and whistling in the dark, for it is impossible honestly to believe that chronic unemployment is in no way the ‘model's’ fault.’
      • ‘Indeed, being a comic of South Asian descent is a lot like whistling in the dark - when you confront your fears and whistle in spite of your fears, the fears seem to evaporate.’
      • ‘Europe needs better leaders: if this optimism feels like whistling in the dark, well, Brown remains a pretty dark horse.’
      • ‘Under these conditions, any prediction that the global economy is insulated from an Argentine-Brazilian collapse amounts to whistling in the dark.’
      • ‘Image wise, observers claim Scott McNealy's whining is whistling in the dark; that he should clam up and get back to business.’
  • whistle in the wind

    • Try unsuccessfully to influence something that cannot be changed.

      • ‘In the face of this growing terror, it may seem to be whistling in the wind to call for confidence.’
      • ‘However, unless the message is spread around the constituencies by the people on the ground, he may as well be whistling in the wind.’
      • ‘He was whistling in the wind and we all knew it.’
      • ‘That means that taxes will be upped when the Government decides to up them, and Parliament can whistle in the wind.’
      • ‘For years politicians and anti-drugs campaigners have chanted ‘Just Say No’ but they might as well have been whistling in the wind for all the effect this mantra, repeated incessantly, has had.’
      • ‘I don't know offhand, but if you do not adjust for inflationary effects and the GDP you are whistling in the wind.’
      • ‘Unless they can come up with a credible political and judicial scenario for the realisation of their objective, I fear that however strident their demands they amount to no more than whistling in the wind or baying at the moon.’
      • ‘And the Wanderers' club skipper insists he is not whistling in the wind.’
      • ‘Polly and many others are whistling in the wind.’
      • ‘We are whistling in the wind if we think we can do it on our own.’
      • ‘Famed liberal journalist and political commentator Bill Moyers recently remarked ‘I believe that journalism is all about writing in the sand and whistling in the wind.’’
      • ‘However, they may be whistling in the wind, for they entrusted the precious volume to a tabloid journalist, of all people.’
      • ‘To act as if it were not so is a futile gesture, like whistling in the wind.’
      • ‘Too often, ‘alternative’ medicine is just whistling in the wind.’
      • ‘But it is like whistling in the wind, because we are talking about a socialist Government that wants to hoard the money of taxpayers as it does not trust ordinary New Zealanders to make proper choices.’
      • ‘That's probably why we enjoy being told how bad things are, which means the bearers of good news like Mr Trichet and others are simply whistling in the wind.’
      • ‘Donald Dewar intervened personally to try to make this clear, but he too was whistling in the wind.’
      • ‘But he feels he may be whistling in the wind, with precious little hope of forcing a change in the short term.’
      • ‘But hoping that the breakthroughs of tomorrow will wash away the problems of today is just whistling in the wind.’
      • ‘Bertie may just be whistling in the wind with this one.’


Old English (h)wistlian (verb), (h)wistle (noun), of Germanic origin; imitative and related to Swedish vissla ‘to whistle’.