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From Old English hwīl, from Proto-Germanic *hwīlō (compare Dutch wijl, Low German Wiel, German Weile), from Proto-Indo-European *kʷyeh₁- (to rest). Cognate with Albanian sillë (breakfast), Latin tranquillus, Sanskrit चिर (cirá).



while (plural whiles)

  1. An uncertain duration of time, a period of time.
    He lectured for quite a long while.
    • 1857, Charles Kingsley, [Letters and Memories]:
      Do the good that's nearest Though it's dull at whiles.

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  1. During the same time that.
    He was sleeping while I was singing.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 12, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      While the powwow was going on the big woman came back again. She was consider'ble rumpled and scratched up, but there was fire in her eye.
    • 1948, Carey McWilliams, North from Mexico / The Spanish-Speaking People of The United States, J. B. Lippincott Company, page 25,
      While De Anza was exploring the Bay of San Francisco, seeking a site for the presidio, the American colonists on the eastern seaboard, three thousand miles away, were celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
    • 2013 June 7, David Simpson, “Fantasy of navigation”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 188, number 26, page 36:
      Like most human activities, ballooning has sponsored heroes and hucksters and a good deal in between. For every dedicated scientist patiently recording atmospheric pressure and wind speed while shivering at high altitudes, there is a carnival barker with a bevy of pretty girls willing to dangle from a basket or parachute down to earth.
  2. Although.
    This case, while interesting, is a bit frustrating.
  3. (Northern England, Scotland) Until.
    I'll wait while you've finished painting.
  4. As long as.
    While you're at school you may live at home.
    • I. Watts
      Use your memory; you will sensibly experience a gradual improvement, while you take care not to overload it.




  1. (Northern England, Scotland) Until.
    • Beaumont and Fletcher
      I may be conveyed into your chamber; I'll lie under your bed while midnight.


while (third-person singular simple present whiles, present participle whiling, simple past and past participle whiled)

  1. (transitive) To pass (time) idly.
    • Longfellow
      The lovely lady whiled the hours away.
  2. To loiter.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Spectator to this entry?)

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