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Alternative forms[edit]


1662, in sense “flutter as blown by wind”,[1] as whiff +‎ -le ((frequentative)) and (onomatopoeia) sound of wind, particularly a leaf fluttering in unsteady wind; compare whiff. Sense “something small or insignificant” is from 1680.[1]


  • IPA(key): /ˈ(h)wɪfl̩/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪfəl


whiffle (plural whiffles)

  1. A short blow or gust.
  2. (New England) A male haircut done with electric clippers.
  3. (obsolete) Something small or insignificant; a trifle.
  4. (obsolete) A fife or small flute.


whiffle (third-person singular simple present whiffles, present participle whiffling, simple past and past participle whiffled)

  1. To blow a short gust.
  2. To waffle, talk aimlessly.
  3. (UK) To waste time.
  4. To travel quickly with an accompanying wind-like sound; whizz, whistle along.
  5. (ornithology, of a bird) To descend rapidly from a height once the decision to land has been made, involving fast side-slipping first one way and then the other.
  6. (intransitive) To waver, or shake, as if moved by gusts of wind; to shift, turn, or veer about.
    • 1699, William Dampier, “Of Storms”, in Voyages and Descriptions. Vol. II. [], London: [] James Knapton, [], →OCLC, part (please specify |part=I to III), page 61:
      [S]ometimes it may happen that ſuch a Cloud may appear ſeveral Mornings and Evenings, and we may not feel the effects of it, or but very little; yet we always provide againſt it; for a North never comes without ſuch a foreboding Cloud. But if the VVinds also vvhiffle about to the South, with fair flattering VVeather, it never fails.
  7. (transitive) To wave or shake quickly; to cause to whiffle.
  8. To change from one opinion or course to another; to use evasions; to prevaricate; to be fickle.
    • 1741, I[saac] Watts, “Rules of Improvement by Conversation”, in The Improvement of the Mind: Or, A Supplement to the Art of Logick: [], London: [] James Brackstone, [], →OCLC, paragraph XXVII, page 144:
      [A] Perſon of whiffling and unſteady Turn of Mind, who cannot keep cloſe to a Point of Controverſy, []
  9. To disperse with, or as with, a whiff, or puff; to scatter.
    • 1669, Henry More, “The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Church of Laodicea”, in An Exposition of the Seven Epistles to the Seven Churches; [], London: [] James Flesher, →OCLC, paragraph 13, page 163:
      This is a plain and obvious ſenſe of this Promiſe, [] againſt ſuch as would whiffle away all theſe Truths by reſolving them into a mere moral Allegorie.

Derived terms[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “whiffle”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.