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[hwis-uh l, wis-] /ˈʰwɪs əl, ˈwɪs-/
verb (used without object), whistled, whistling.
to make a clear musical sound, a series of such sounds, or a high-pitched, warbling sound by the forcible expulsion of the breath through a small opening formed by contracting the lips, or through the teeth, with the aid of the tongue.
to make such a sound or series of sounds otherwise, as by blowing on some device.
to emit similar sounds from the mouth, as birds do.
(of a device) to produce a similar sound when actuated by steam or the like:
This teakettle whistles when it boils.
to move, go, pass, etc., with a whistling or whizzing sound, as a bullet or the wind.
verb (used with object), whistled, whistling.
to produce by whistling:
to whistle a tune.
to call, direct, or signal by or as by whistling:
He whistled his dog over.
to send with a whistling or whizzing sound.
an instrument for producing whistling sounds by means of the breath, steam, etc., as a small wooden or tin tube, a pipe, or a similar device with an air chamber containing a small ball that oscillates when air is forced through an opening, producing a high-pitched, warbling tone.
a sound produced by whistling:
a prolonged whistle of astonishment.
a simple fipple flute.
Verb phrases
whistle for, to demand or expect without success:
After promising to pay, he told us we could whistle for our money.
blow the whistle, to expose the existence of mischief or wrongdoing:
The agent was taking bribes until someone finally blew the whistle.
blow the whistle on,
  1. to bring a stop to; halt:
    Congress has blown the whistle on all unnecessary expenditures for the program.
  2. to expose (wrongdoing or wrongdoers):
    to blow the whistle on corruption in high places.
wet one's whistle, Informal. to take a drink.
whistle in the dark, to attempt to summon up one's courage or optimism in a difficult situation:
He says his business will improve next year, but he's probably just whistling in the dark.
before 950; (v.) Middle English whistlen, Old English hwistlian; akin to Old Norse hvīsla to whistle, hviskra to whisper; see whine; (noun) Middle English; Old English hwistle instrument, akin to the v.
Related forms
whistleable, adjective
interwhistle, verb (used with object), interwhistled, interwhistling.
unwhistled, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for blow the whistle


to produce (shrill or flutelike musical sounds), as by passing breath through a narrow constriction most easily formed by the pursed lips: he whistled a melody
(transitive) to signal, summon, or command by whistling or blowing a whistle: the referee whistled the end of the game
(of a kettle, train, etc) to produce (a shrill sound) caused by the emission of steam through a small aperture
(intransitive) to move with a whistling sound caused by rapid passage through the air
(of animals, esp birds) to emit (a shrill sound) resembling human whistling
whistle in the dark, to try to keep up one's confidence in spite of fear
a device for making a shrill high-pitched sound by means of air or steam under pressure
a shrill sound effected by whistling
a whistling sound, as of a bird, bullet, the wind, etc
a signal, warning, command, etc, transmitted by or as if by a whistle
the act of whistling
(music) any pipe that is blown down its end and produces sounds on the principle of a flue pipe, usually having as a mouthpiece a fipple cut in the side
(informal) wet one's whistle, to take an alcoholic drink
(usually foll by on) (informal) blow the whistle
  1. to inform (on)
  2. to bring a stop (to)
Word Origin
Old English hwistlian; related to Old Norse hvīsla
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for blow the whistle



Old English hwistlian, from Proto-Germanic *khwis-, of imitative origin. Used also in Middle English of the hissing of serpents. Related: Whistled; whistling. To whistle for (with small prospect of getting) is probably from nautical whistling for a wind. To whistle "Dixie" is from 1940.


"tubular musical instrument," Old English hwistle (see whistle (v.)). To wet one's whistle "take a drink" (late 14c.) originally may have referred to pipes, or be an allusion to the throat as a sort of pipe. Phrase clean as a whistle is recorded from 1878. Railroad whistle stop (at which trains stop only if the engineer hears a signal from the station) is recorded from 1934.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for blow the whistle

blow the whistle

verb phrase
  1. To inform; sing: She hadn't been Dutch Schultz's wife for four years not to know the penalty for blowing the whistle/ How come you're blowing the whistle? (1940s+ Underworld)
  2. To expose or begin to resist wrongdoing: The detective who blew the whistle was also transferred (1950s+)

[fr the whistle once used by police officers to signal ''Stop!''; influenced by the signal of a sports official that an infraction, foul, etc, has been committed]


Related Terms

bet your boots, the cat's meow

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with blow the whistle
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Article for blow the whistle


short flute having a stopped lower end and a flue that directs the player's breath from the mouth hole at the upper end against the edge of a hole cut in the whistle wall, causing the enclosed air to vibrate. Most forms have no finger holes and sound only one pitch. It was made originally from bird bones, and it is considered by many scholars to be the oldest flute type known. It is mainly used for signaling, though it can be heard in folk ensembles and in contemporary music.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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