AskDefine | Define whirligig

The Collaborative Dictionary

Whirligig \Whirl"i*gig\, n. [Whirl + gig.] [1913 Webster]
A child's toy, spun or whirled around like a wheel upon an axis, or like a top. --Johnson. [1913 Webster]
Anything which whirls around, or in which persons or things are whirled about, as a frame with seats or wooden horses. [1913 Webster] With a whirligig of jubilant mosquitoes spinning about each head. --G. W. Cable. [1913 Webster]
A mediaeval instrument for punishing petty offenders, being a kind of wooden cage turning on a pivot, in which the offender was whirled round with great velocity. [1913 Webster]
(Zool.) Any one of numerous species of beetles belonging to Gyrinus and allied genera. The body is firm, oval or boatlike in form, and usually dark colored with a bronzelike luster. These beetles live mostly on the surface of water, and move about with great celerity in a gyrating, or circular, manner, but they are also able to dive and swim rapidly. The larva is aquatic. Called also weaver, whirlwig, and whirlwig beetle. [1913 Webster]

Word Net



1 a conical child's plaything tapering to a steel point on which it can be made to spin; "he got a bright red top and string for his birthday" [syn: top, teetotum, spinning top]
2 large mechanical apparatus with seats for children to ride on [syn: carousel, carrousel, merry-go-round, roundabout] v : whirl or spin like a whirligig

Moby Thesaurus

April showers, Ferris wheel, Proteus, carousel, chameleon, chute-the-chutes, chutes, cloud shapes, disk, flying horses, gyrate, gyre, kaleidoscope, mercury, merry-go-round, moon, pirouette, purl, quicksilver, roller, roller coaster, rolling stone, rotator, rotor, roundabout, rundle, seesaw, shifting sands, swing, teeter-totter, the weather, top, twirl, water, weather vane, weathercock, wheel, wheel of fortune, whip, whirl, whirlabout, whirler





  1. Anything that whirls or spins around.
  2. A whirligig beetle.
  3. A device for punishing prisoners comprising a wooden cage that rapidly spins around.


  • 1600-1, William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
    And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.
A whirligig is an object that spins or whirls, or has at least one member that spins or whirls in the wind.
The word, derived from the verb to whirl, is known in English since 1440, originally for various spinning toys.
Since ancient times, a whirligig was a spinning punitive or torture contraption comprising a suspended cage-like device; see Whirligig (torture).
Modern whirligigs are generally decorative and entertaining, such as lawn ornaments and wind-powered hanging art.


  • The U.S. granted a patent for a yo-yo like device called a whirligig in 1866.
  • Paul Fleischman's book Whirligig is about a teenager who builds whirligigs as a way to repay the mother of a girl he killed in a drunk driving accident.
  • A whirligig can also refer to a very small whirling of air, like a micro-cyclone.
  • In the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a game set in a world filled with strange and dangerous phenomenon called anomalies, the whirligig is a lethal gravitational anomaly which drags people / mutants into the air and spins them at immeasurable speed until they disintegrate.
  • The title of a play by American playwright Mac Wellman.
  • The book Missing May by Cynthia Rylant, May's uncle, Ob, makes whirligigs.
  • A whirligig appears as a vehicle in the Sony Playstation One game Spyro: Year of the Dragon.


whirligig in German: Whirligig
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