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From Middle English whirlewind, whirlewynde, equivalent to whirl +‎ wind. Compare Middle Dutch wervelwint, Old Norse hvirfilvindr.





whirlwind (plural whirlwinds)

  1. A violent windstorm of limited extent, as the tornado, characterized by an inward spiral motion of the air with an upward current in the center; a vortex of air. It usually has a rapid progressive motion.
    • 1668, Franciscus Euistor the Palæopolite [pseudonym; Henry More], “The Fifth Dialogue”, in Divine Dialogues, Containing Sundry Disquisitions & Instructions Concerning the Attributes of God and His Providence in the World. [], 2nd edition, London: [] Joseph Downing [], published 1713, →OCLC, paragraph XXXVIII, page 515:
      VVhile in the mean time there iſſued out on the Eaſt-ſide a ſtrong VVind, but pure and refreſhing, vvhich dividing into ſeveral parts that turned round became ſo many innocuous VVhirl-vvinds of ſincere Air, tinctured only vvith a cool refreſhing ſmell, as if it had paſſed over ſome large field of Lilies and Roſes.
    • 1818, Percy Bysshe Shelley, “(please specify the page)”, in The Revolt of Islam; [], London: [] [F]or C[harles] and J[ames] Ollier, []; by B. M‘Millan, [], →OCLC, (please specify the stanza number):
      And his hoofs ground the rocks to fire and dust, / His strong sides made the torrents rise in spray, / And turbulence, as if a whirlwind’s gust / Surrounded us; []
  2. (figuratively) A person or body of objects or events sweeping violently onward.
    Once he got that new scooter he turned into a whirlwind and damaged all the flowers.
    The weeks leading up to the convention were a whirlwind of preparation and hurried activity.



Derived terms



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whirlwind (not comparable)

  1. Rapid and minimal.
    a whirlwind tour, a whirlwind romance
    • 2016, Nina Milne, Rafael's Contract Bride, page 60:
      So you aren't deserting the Caversham ship. They'll understand. After all, their courtship was pretty whirlwind itself.

See also