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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English whirren, probably from Old Norse: compare Danish hvirre, virre, Norwegian kvirre, Old Norse hvirfla (to whirl, spread).



whirr (third-person singular simple present whirrs, present participle whirring, simple past and past participle whirred)

  1. To move or vibrate (something) with a buzzing sound.
  2. (intransitive) To make a sibilant buzzing or droning sound.
    • 2017 April 6, Samira Shackle, “On the frontline with Karachi’s ambulance drivers”, in the Guardian[1]:
      In a city where media companies and hospitals have armed guards, this accessibility is unusual. Inside, drivers sit and chat in between shifts, the overhead fan whirring and causing the dim electric light to flicker over their faces.
  3. (transitive) To cause (something) to make such a sound.




whirr (plural whirrs)

  1. A sibilant buzz or vibration; the sound of something in rapid motion.
    • 1978, Lawrence Durrell, “Lord Galen’s Farewell”, in Livia: Or Buried Alive [] (The Avignon Quintet; 2), London; Boston, Mass.: Faber and Faber, →ISBN, page 239:
      At that moment a flight of birds passed close overhead, and at the whirr of their wings a panic fear seized her.
    • 2007, Jeffrey Engel; Sherol Engel; & James A. Swan, Chasing The Hunter's Dream: 1,001 of the World's Best Duck Marshes, Deer Runs, Elk Meadows, Pheasant Fields, Bear Woods, Safaris, and Extraordinary Hunts, HarperCollins, published 2007, →ISBN, page 212:
      Then the exploding whirr of wings in the wind — a mixed covey of bobwhites and scalies.
  2. A bustle of noise and excitement.