Definitions

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

  • n. Any of various spinning toys.
  • n. A carousel; a merry-go-round.
  • n. Something that continuously whirls.
  • n. The whirligig beetle.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Anything that whirls or spins around, such as a toy top.
  • n. A whirligig beetle.
  • n. A device for punishing prisoners comprising a wooden cage that rapidly spins around.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A child's toy, spun or whirled around like a wheel upon an axis, or like a top.
  • n. Anything which whirls around, or in which persons or things are whirled about, as a frame with seats or wooden horses.
  • n. A mediæval 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.
  • n. 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.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Any toy or trivial object to which a rapid whirling motion is imparted.
  • n. A toy which children spin in the hand by means of string.
  • n. A carrousel or merry-go-round.
  • n. A toy resembling a miniature windmill, which children cause to spin or whirl round by moving it through the air.
  • n. Hence, anything that revolves or spins like a whirligig; also, spinning rotation; revolving or recurring course.
  • n. In milit. antiq., an instrument for punishing petty offenders, as a kind of wooden cage turning on a pivot, in which the offender was whirled round with great velocity.
  • n. In entomology, any one of numerous species of water-beetles of the family Gyrinidæ, as Gyrinus natator, usually seen in large numbers on the surface of the water, circling rapidly about, and diving only to escape danger.
  • Whirling.

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

  • v. whirl or spin like a whirligig
  • n. a conical child's plaything tapering to a steel point on which it can be made to spin
  • n. a large, rotating machine with seats for children to ride or amusement

Etymologies

Middle English whirlegigge : whirlen, whirl; see whirl + -gigge, something that rotates (possibly of Scandinavian origin; akin to gig1).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Middle English whirlegigge. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Solar wind particles flow along the ropes in whirligig trajectories leading from the sun to Earth.

    Aurora Bibliothèque

  • To repeat: Solar wind particles flow along the ropes in whirligig trajectories leading from the sun to Earth.

    Aurora Bibliothèque

  • He thought all the evening; or rather thought and fancy took a kind of whirligig dance, where it was hard to tell which was which.

    The Hills of the Shatemuc

  • For those who do not know and may think that a "whirligig" is some sort of child's toy, it is actually an object that spins, turns or has at least one moving part to indicate wind direction -- much like a weather vane.

    ScrippsNews

  • You also do not need a "whirligig," or other device, to deliver the water to your grain bed.

    FriendFeed - georgeh

  • The Ferris wheel fell over onto its side with a rending crash, the chains holding the swings to the whirligig snapped, and the carousel horses grew old and gray and withered like overripe fruit on their poles.

    Slice Of Cherry

  • Ms. Li's sound laces rock with electronic energy and a nattering sense of whirligig rhythm, and her voice alternates between coy coos and throaty bellows that promise to tart up the night sky over Central Park.

    Wing It Out Loud Around Town

  • When speech fails – and the speech here is sometimes meagre, sometimes over-emphatic and quite often oddly accented – a whirligig of activity takes over.

    Decade; The Tempest; The Kitchen; Parade – review

  • It would seem the whirligig of time does not, alas, bring its revenges.

    Vicky Ward: The Whirligig of Time Fails to Bring Its Revenges

  • He walked over to a whirligig to help a young mother take her twins off the ride.

    Brooklyn Story

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Comments

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  • and the band played on a merry-go-round

    June 27, 2009

  • The wagon was hustling him along and his legs were going crazy. Then he was lifted into the air by the shafts, with his feet churning round like a whirligig.

    - William Steig, Farmer Palmer's Wagon Ride

    September 29, 2008