[hwurl, hwawrl, wurl, wawrl]
a circular arrangement of like parts, as leaves or flowers, around a point on an axis; verticil.
one of the turns or volutions of a spiral shell.
anything shaped like a coil.
one of the central ridges of a fingerprint, forming at least one complete circle.
Textiles. a flywheel or pulley, as for a spindle.

1425–75; late Middle English whorle, whorvil, wharwyl, Old English hwyrfel, equivalent to hweorfa whorl of a spindle + -el noun suffix

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World English Dictionary
whorl (wɜːl)
1.  botany a radial arrangement of three or more petals, stamens, leaves, etc, around a stem
2.  zoology a single turn in a spiral shell
3.  arch Compare loop one of the basic patterns of the human fingerprint, formed by several complete circular ridges one inside another
4.  anything shaped like a coil
[C15: probably variant of whervillewhirl, influenced by Dutch worvel]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

c.1460, "flywheel or pulley on a spindle," perhaps an alteration of whirl. Meaning "circle of leaves or flowers round a stem of a plant" is first recorded 1551. Of seashells or other spiral structures, from 1828.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

whorl (wôrl, wûrl)

  1. A form that coils or spirals; a curl or swirl.

  2. A turn of the cochlea or of the ethmoidal crest.

  3. An area of hair growing in a radial manner.

  4. One of the circular ridges or convolutions of a fingerprint.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
whorl   (hwôrl, wôrl, hwûrl, wûrl)  Pronunciation Key 
  1. An arrangement of three or more appendages radiating in a circular or spiral arrangement from a point on a plant, as leaves around the node of a stem. The sepals, petals, stamens, and carpels of angiosperms form four separate whorls within a complete flower.

  2. A single turn of a spiral shell of a mollusk.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
The snail kite feeds on this species, its beak curving precisely into the
  snail's whorl.
The solitary, nodding flower with an unpleasant odor rises on a stalk above a
  whorl of three broadly ovate, diamond-shaped leaves.
One or two flowers stand in the center of the whorl of leaves.
Mosses typically have small leaves arranged in a whorl around a short stem.
Images for whorl
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