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Of Scandinavian origin, akin to Norwegian Nynorsk tvirla, Old High German dweran[1] (German zwirlen, quirlen) and Icelandic þyrill;[2] all from Proto-Germanic *þwirilaz (stirring-stick, whisk), *þweraną (to stir).[3] Or, an alteration of tirl (to twist), with influence from whirl.[4][5][6]



twirl (plural twirls)

  1. A movement where a person spins round elegantly; a pirouette.
  2. Any rotating movement; a spin.
    The conductor gave his baton a twirl, and the orchestra began to play.
  3. A little twist of some substance; a swirl.
    • 1969, The South African Sugar Journal, volume 53, page 51:
      Place the cream in a piping bag with a fairly large star pipe attached, fill each tartlet with a twirl of cream and top with a strawberry.
  4. (slang) A prison guard.
    Synonym: screw
    • 1958, Frank Norman, Bang to rights: an account of prison life, page 67:
      Which was in the main childishness and pettiness, the reason for this was that most of the twirls and the governors had []

Derived terms[edit]



twirl (third-person singular simple present twirls, present participle twirling, simple past and past participle twirled)

  1. (intransitive) To perform a twirl.
  2. (transitive) To rotate rapidly.
  3. (transitive) To twist round.
    • 1930, Norman Lindsay, Redheap, Sydney, N.S.W.: Ure Smith, published 1965, →OCLC, page 85:
      He inflated his chest, twirled his moustache, and thumped the table with a revulsion to thunderous indignation.
  4. (baseball) To pitch.
    • 1949, Mark Raymond Murnane, Ground Swells: Of Sailors, Ships, and Shellac, page 302:
      When the batteries were announced, however, and Herb Pennock of the Boston Red Sox, probably the best pitcher in all baseballdom, was named to twirl for the invading team, we felt we had been tricked.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Etymology in Merriam Webster's Dictionary
  2. ^ “Germanic cognates”, in (please provide the title of the work)[1], accessed 3 October 2008, archived from the original on 2021-01-05
  3. ^ Kroonen, Guus (2013) Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 11), Leiden, Boston: Brill, →ISBN
  4. ^ twirl”, in Unabridged,, LLC, 1995–present.
  5. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024), “twirl”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  6. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 1884–1928, and First Supplement, 1933.