[hwis-per, wis-per]
verb (used without object)
to speak with soft, hushed sounds, using the breath, lips, etc., but with no vibration of the vocal cords.
Phonetics. to produce utterance substituting breath for phonation.
to talk softly and privately (often implying gossip, slander, plotting, or the like): The king knew that the courtiers were whispering.
(of trees, water, breezes, etc.) to make a soft, rustling sound like that of whispering.
verb (used with object)
to utter with soft, low sounds, using the breath, lips, etc.: He whispered endearments to her.
Phonetics. to utter (speech sounds) substituting breath for phonation.
to say or tell in a whisper; tell privately.
to speak to or tell (a person) in a whisper or privately.
the mode of utterance, or the voice, of a person who whispers: to speak in a whisper.
a word or remark uttered by whispering.
a rumor or insinuation: Whispers circulated about the affair.
a soft, rustling sound like a whisper: the whisper of leaves in the wind.

before 950; Middle English whisperen (v.), Old English hwisprian; cognate with German wispern; akin to Old Norse hviskra to whisper, hvīsla to whistle. See whine

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
whisper (ˈwɪspə)
1.  to speak or utter (something) in a soft hushed tone, esp without vibration of the vocal cords
2.  (intr) to speak secretly or furtively, as in promoting intrigue, gossip, etc
3.  (intr) (of leaves, trees, etc) to make a low soft rustling sound
4.  (tr) to utter or suggest secretly or privately: to whisper treason
5.  a low soft voice: to speak in a whisper
6.  something uttered in such a voice
7.  a low soft rustling sound
8.  a trace or suspicion
9.  informal a rumour or secret
[Old English hwisprian; related to Old Norse hvīskra, Old High German hwispalōn, Dutch wispern]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

O.E. hwisprian "speak very softly" (only in a Northumbrian gloss for L. murmurare), from P.Gmc. *khwis- (cf. M.Du. wispelen, O.H.G. hwispalon, Ger. wispeln, wispern, O.N. hviskra "to whisper"), imitative and probably related to O.E. hwistlian "to whistle." The noun is from 1596.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see stage whisper.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


speech in which the vocal cords are held rigid, preventing the vibration that produces normal sounds. In whispering, voiceless sounds are produced as usual; but voiced sounds (e.g., vowels) are produced by forcing air through a narrow glottal opening formed by holding the vocal cords rigid and close together. See also voice; vocal fry.

Learn more about whisper with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Medical bills have since wiped out his savings, and the tumor has reduced his
  voice to a whisper.
From the softest whisper to the loudest roar, our ears pick up sound.
His colleagues whisper that his planet doesn't go all the way around his star.
Today dawned gray-on-gray, silver fog touching the sea's silvered surface, with
  not a whisper of wind.
Idioms & Phrases
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