Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To breathe with difficulty, producing a hoarse whistling sound.
  • intransitive v. To make a sound resembling laborious breathing.
  • transitive v. To produce or utter with a hoarse whistling sound: The old locomotive wheezed steam.
  • n. A wheezing sound.
  • n. Informal An old joke.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A piping or whistling sound caused by difficult respiration.
  • n. An ordinary whisper exaggerated so as to produce the hoarse sound known as the "stage whisper"; a forcible whisper with some admixture of tone.
  • n. An ulterior scheme or plan
  • n. Something very humorous or laughable.
  • v. To breathe hard, and with an audible piping or whistling sound, as persons affected with asthma.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A piping or whistling sound caused by difficult respiration.
  • n. An ordinary whisper exaggerated so as to produce the hoarse sound known as the “stage whisper.” It is a forcible whisper with some admixture of tone.
  • intransitive v. To breathe hard, and with an audible piping or whistling sound, as persons affected with asthma.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To breathe hard; puff and blow; breathe with difficulty and audibly.
  • n. A puffing or blowing, especially as in labored breathing.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. breathing with a husky or whistling sound
  • n. (Briticism) a clever or amusing scheme or trick
  • v. breathe with difficulty

Etymologies

Middle English whesen, probably from Old Norse hvæsa, to hiss; see kwes- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English whesen, perhaps from Old Norse hvæsa ("to hiss"), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *kwes- (“to pant”). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "In March last year, for example, we discovered that the government passed data which it had withheld from the public to the airport operator BAA. The data showed that a third runway at Heathrow would immediately breach European noise and pollution limits, ensuring that it could never be built. BAA and the government worked together to re-engineer the figures to fit the limits. Their fake data was then presented to the public in the government’s consultation paper(7,8). It was used again this month to justify the decision to approve the third runway. This is the kind of wheeze you’d expect in Nigeria."
    - George Monbiot, Squandered, monbiot.com, 27 January 2009.

    February 18, 2010

  • ...hearing the second-rate asthmatic wheeze
    of this ephemeral trite Audenese...

    - Peter Reading, Dead Horse, from Water and Waste, 1974

    June 23, 2008