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[hwahyl, wahyl] /ʰwaɪl, waɪl/
a period or interval of time:
to wait a long while; He arrived a short while ago.
Archaic. a particular time or occasion.
during or in the time that.
throughout the time that; as long as.
even though; although:
While she appreciated the honor, she could not accept the position.
at the same time that (showing an analogous or corresponding action):
The floor was strewn with books, while magazines covered the tables.
Archaic. until.
verb (used with object), whiled, whiling.
to cause (time) to pass, especially in some easy or pleasant manner (usually followed by away).
all the while, at or during this time; all along:
She realized all the while that the cake would fall.
worth one's while, worth one's time, trouble, or expense:
The art exhibition that opened yesterday isn't worth your while.
Origin of while
before 900; Middle English; Old English hwīl; cognate with Dutch wijl, German weile, Old Norse hvīla, Gothic hweila
Can be confused
while, wile. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for while
  • while we've made a lot of progress in understanding sleep, we've a long way to go to understand dreaming.
  • When she visits friends in big houses, she notices how many rooms are vacant while people gather naturally in one room.
  • How do you avoid a financial crisis while traveling?
  • Not many people start a business while still in their 20s.
  • Take away the freedom to text while driving and people get nervous.
  • Detention while waiting for a trial can last for weeks or longer.
  • Even while asleep the body requires energy to fuel the multitude of complex functions required to keep us alive.
  • Sample great food and wine while enjoying live music and cooking demonstrations.
  • You might enjoy yourself while learning a thing or two.
  • Buy while stocks last.
British Dictionary definitions for while


(subordinating) at the same time that: please light the fire while I'm cooking
(subordinating) all the time that: I stay inside while it's raining
(subordinating) in spite of the fact that: while I agree about his brilliance I still think he's rude
(coordinating) whereas; and in contrast: flats are expensive, while houses are cheap
(subordinating; used with a gerund) during the activity of: while walking I often whistle
preposition, conjunction
(Scot & Northern English, dialect) another word for until you'll have to wait while Monday for these sheets, you'll never make any progress while you listen to me
(usually used in adverbial phrases) a period or interval of time: once in a long while
trouble or time (esp in the phrase worth one's while): it's hardly worth your while to begin work today
the while, at that time: he was working the while
See also whiles
Usage note
It was formerly considered incorrect to use while to mean in spite of the fact that or whereas, but these uses have now become acceptable
Word Origin
Old English hwīl; related to Old High German hwīla (German Weile), Gothic hveila, Latin quiēs peace, tranquīlustranquil
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for while

Old English hwile, accusative of hwil "a space of time," from Proto-Germanic *khwilo (cf. Old Saxon hwil, Old Frisian hwile, Old High German hwila, German Weile, Gothic hveila "space of time, while"), originally "rest" (cf. Old Norse hvila "bed," hvild "rest"), from PIE *qwi- "rest" (cf. Avestan shaitish "joy," Old Persian šiyatish "joy," Latin quies "rest, repose, quiet," Old Church Slavonic po-koji "rest"). Notion of "period of rest" became in Germanic "period of time."

Now largely superseded by time except in formulaic constructions (e.g. all the while). Middle English sense of "time spent in doing something" now only preserved in worthwhile and phrases such as worth (one's) while. As a conjunction (late Old English), it represents Old English þa hwile þe; form whiles is recorded from early 13c.; whilst is from late 14c., with excrescent -st as in amongst, amidst (see amid).


"to cause (time) to pass without dullness, 1630s, earlier "to occupy or engage (someone or something) for a period of time" (c.1600), new formation from while (n.), not considered to be from Middle English hwulen "to have leisure," which is from a Germanic verb form of while (n.) (cf. German weilen "to stay, linger"). An association with phrases such as Shakespearean beguile the day, Latin diem decipere, French tromper le temps "has led to the substitution of WILE v by some modern writers" [OED] (see wile).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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while in Technology
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Idioms and Phrases with while
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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