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[hwurl, hwawrl, wurl, wawrl] /ʰwɜrl, ʰwɔrl, wɜrl, wɔrl/
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.
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English whorle, whorvil, wharwyl, Old English hwyrfel, equivalent to hweorfa whorl of a spindle + -el noun suffix Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for whorls
  • Watching the whorls of smoke from his cigar, he found it harder and harder to concentrate.
  • 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 whorls.
  • And vail its tangled whorls, and thou shalt walk on daisies pied.
  • She glanced dubiously at it, then lifted it closer to examine the smooth gray whorls on its side.
  • Flying saucers, out of vogue for some time, were given new life by the whorls.
  • For one thing, their life histories are calcified for all to see in the delicate whorls of their shells.
  • They occur in whorls on slender branches arranged around a central flower-stalk.
  • When grown with sufficient light the leaves are bright green and form attractive compact whorls.
British Dictionary definitions for whorls


(botany) a radial arrangement of three or more petals, stamens, leaves, etc, around a stem
(zoology) a single turn in a spiral shell
one of the basic patterns of the human fingerprint, formed by several complete circular ridges one inside another Compare arch1 (sense 4b), loop1 (sense 10a)
anything shaped like a coil
Derived Forms
whorled, adjective
Word Origin
C15: probably variant of whervillewhirl, influenced by Dutch worvel
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 whorls



mid-15c., "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 1550s. Of seashells or other spiral structures, from 1828.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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whorls in Medicine

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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whorls in Science
  (hwôrl, wôrl, hwûrl, wûrl)   
  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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