General English

  • noun a high sound made by blowing through your lips when they are almost closed
  • noun a simple instrument which makes a high sound, played by blowing
  • verb to blow through your lips to make a high sound
  • verb to make a high sound as a signal, using a small metal instrument


  • noun an instrument which is blown through to produce a clear shrill noise
  • noun the noise produced by a whistle or by blowing air through your lips
  • verb to produce the sound of a whistle


  • noun (of clothes) a suit. From the rhyming-slang phrase ‘whistle and flute’. This term dates back to before World War II and has survived into the early 21st century. It was used by London mods, for instance, and is now heard among students as well as working-class Londoners. Since the 1950s the phrase has almost invariably been abbreviated to the one word.

Origin & History of “whistle”

like whisper, whistle goes back ultimately to the prehistoric Germanic base *khwis-, which denoted a ‘hissing’ sound. Related forms include Swedish vissla ‘whistle’ and Danish hvisle ‘hiss’.