• WordNet 3.6
    • v whirligig whirl or spin like a whirligig
    • n whirligig a large, rotating machine with seats for children to ride or amusement
    • n whirligig a conical child's plaything tapering to a steel point on which it can be made to spin "he got a bright red top and string for his birthday"
    • ***
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Whirligig A child's toy, spun or whirled around like a wheel upon an axis, or like a top.
    • Whirligig A mediæval instrument for punishing petty offenders, being a kind of wooden cage turning on a pivot, in which the offender was whirled round with great velocity.
    • Whirligig (Zoöl) Any one of numerous species of beetles belonging to Gyrinus and allied genera. The body is firm, oval or boatlike in form, and usually dark colored with a bronzelike luster. These beetles live mostly on the surface of water, and move about with great celerity in a gyrating, or circular, manner, but they are also able to dive and swim rapidly. The larva is aquatic. Called also weaver whirlwig, and whirlwig beetle.
    • Whirligig Anything which whirls around, or in which persons or things are whirled about, as a frame with seats or wooden horses. "With a whirligig of jubilant mosquitoes spinning about each head."
    • ***
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n whirligig Any toy or trivial object to which a rapid whirling motion is imparted. Especially
    • n whirligig A toy which children spin in the hand by means of string.
    • n whirligig A carrousel or merry-go-round.
    • n whirligig A toy resembling a miniature windmill, which children cause to spin or whirl round by moving it through the air.
    • n whirligig Hence, anything that revolves or spins like a whirligig; also, spinning rotation; revolving or recurring course.
    • n whirligig In milit. antiq., an instrument for punishing petty offenders, as a kind of wooden cage turning on a pivot, in which the offender was whirled round with great velocity.
    • n whirligig In entomology, any one of numerous species of water-beetles of the family Gyrinidæ, as Gyrinus natator, usually seen in large numbers on the surface of the water, circling rapidly about, and diving only to escape danger. When caught, many exude a milky liquid having an odor of apples. They abound in fresh-water ponds, pools, and ditches. The larvæ are aquatic, and breathe by means of ciliate branchiæ. The American whirligigs belong to the genera Gyrinus, Dineutus, and Gyretes. See cut under Gyrinidæ. Also whirlgig, whirlwig, and whirlwig-beetle.
    • whirligig Whirling.
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • Whirligig a child's toy which is spun or whirled rapidly round: a merry-go-round: anything that revolves rapidly: the water-beetle (Gyrinus): an ancient instrument of punishment, consisting of a pivoted wooden cage in which the prisoner was spun round
    • ***


  • Ezra Pound
    “The intellect is a very nice whirligig toy, but how people take it seriously is more than I can understand.”
  • William Shakespeare
    “And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.”


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
Whirl, + gig,
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
Skeat explains M. E. whirlen as a contraction for an assumed whirf-le, a freq. of Ice. hvirfla, to whirl, freq. of hverfa (pa.t. hvarf), to turn round; Ger. wirbeln, to whirl.


In literature:

Lor', what a whirligig life is.
"A Mating in the Wilds" by Ottwell Binns
Sometimes they sunned themselves on the surface, snapping idly at the measurers and whirligigs.
""Wee Tim'rous Beasties"" by Douglas English
That shows what a whirligig I am.
"Jewel Weed" by Alice Ames Winter
She set it down and stooped forward, turning the bowl as if it were a whirligig.
"A Treasury of Eskimo Tales" by Clara Kern Bayliss
Now for the whirligig.
"Games and Play for School Morale" by Various
As I entered, the body of Travers came twisting across the room like a penny whirligig.
"War and the Weird" by Forbes Phillips
The next turn of the whirligig may bring back proof of him again.
"The Will to Believe" by William James
The saloon swung head over heels in a whirligig movement.
"The Spoilers of the Valley" by Robert Watson
She is spiteful, too, that whirligig woman with the wheel.
"Records of Later Life" by Frances Ann Kemble
The whirligig of time brings in its revenges, after all.
"The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson - Swanston Edition Vol. 23 (of 25)" by Robert Louis Stevenson

In poetry:

We've had awr shares o' ups an daans,
I' this world's whirligig;
An for its favors or its fraans
We needn't care a fig.
"Sixty An Sixteen" by John Hartley
Fives, and tens,
Threes and fours and twelves,
All the volte face of decimals,
The whirligig of dozens and the pinnacle of seven.
"Tortoise Shell" by D H Lawrence

In news:

Whirligig beetles skittering atop the slow water of Bayou Des Allemands were the first target of an evening bug hunt for the Audubon Insectarium as scientists sought to replenish its stock of swamp-swimmers.
We watched an R2D-1 transport circling, trailing a queer whirligig below its tail.
' Whimsical Whirligigs' at the Arts Council of Wayne County.
News-Argus/Greg Sousa Gail Barnes and her 2-year-old grandson, Brian Barnes, look at one of the whirligigs by folk artist Vollis Simpson.
Durbin makes whirligigs that turn and amuse.