[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
Watching the whorls of smoke from his cigar, he found it harder and harder to
The banana plant is a photosynthetic fountain that spouts leaf whorls out of
  its top.
We traveled in thick fog and through whorls of brown, blowing mist which made
  the woods ghostly.
In reality, genomes are arranged in intricate, three-dimensional loops and
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