Definition of while in English:

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Pronunciation: /(h)wīl/


1A period of time: we chatted for a while she retired a little while ago
More example sentences
  • At this time kidneys were taken a little while after the donor's heart had stopped and death had been pronounced.
  • It is safe to assume that the word had been around for a while before 1611.
  • There were two bastards in the Jones household for a while - but only one of them was truly Jenny's.
time, spell, stretch, stint, span, interval, period;
duration, phase, patch
1.1 (a while) For some time: can I keep it a while?
More example sentences
  • Again the industry cooled its heels a while and then brought back the same plan.
2 (the while) At the same time; meanwhile: he starts to draw, talking the while
2.1 literary During the time that: beseeching him, the while his hand she wrung


1During the time that; at the same time as: nothing much changed while he was away
More example sentences
  • Now I'm not going to be able to think of anything else but her ears while watching the movie.
  • The thing that stayed with me while watching the movie was the sense of dread that something was going to happen.
  • The victims were attacked while watching a cricket match between India and Pakistan on television.
during the time that, when, as;
chiefly British  whilst
2Whereas (indicating a contrast): one person wants out, while the other wants the relationship to continue
More example sentences
  • Danny Slatter has signed a one-year contract, while Russell Edwards has been released.
  • Some sought to contradict him, while others tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore his prying.
  • Spain is increasing the size of its fishing fleet while ours is contracting.
2.1In spite of the fact that; although: while I wouldn’t recommend a nighttime visit, by day the area is full of interest
More example sentences
  • In fact, while they are labeled as such, they are not really fantasy stories in the genre sense.
  • In fact, while the experiment was, of necessity, painful, it was far from worthless.
  • The fact remains that, while horses may not die of foot-and-mouth, they do carry the disease.

relative adverb

During which: the period while the animal remains alive
More example sentences
  • It is not just for a relatively short period while physical defects to the property are made good.
  • There were no words confining the cover to a period while actual repairs were taking place.
  • There's a moment's freezing silence while her eyebrows contract like thunder.


[with object] (often while away the time)
Pass time in a leisurely manner: a diversion to while away the long afternoons
More example sentences
  • The English Tea House & Restaurant is a sublime slice of colonial luxury; indeed, most visitors wind up whiling the afternoon away within its convivial surroundings rather than just stopping for lunch.
  • When not out with Sanura, Kira spent most of her time in her room and whiled the time away by expressing her obsession through her art.
  • People sat under parasols outside the cafes, whiling the day away.
pass, spend, occupy, use up, fritter, kill


1 While is sometimes used, without causing any misunderstandings, in the sense of whereas (‘although,’ ‘by contrast,’ ‘in comparison with the fact that’). This usage is frowned on by some traditionalists, but while is sometimes preferable, as in contexts in which whereas might sound inappropriately formal: while you say you like her, you’ve never stood up for her. Whereas is preferable, however, for preventing ambiguity in contexts in which while might be read as referring to time, or might falsely suggest simultaneity: whereas Burton promised to begin at once, he was delayed nine months for lack of funding; whereas Jonas was an excellent planter and cultivator, Julius was a master harvester. 2 On the distinction between awhile and a while, see awhile (usage). 3 On the distinction between worth while and worthwhile, see worthwhile (usage).



between whiles

archaic At intervals: add potassium carbonate, shaking vigorously between whiles
More example sentences
  • He had heroic health; but several times during that journey he experienced fits of giddiness, and between whiles he speculated hazily as to the size of the blister the sun was raising on his back.
  • And between whiles I had to look after the savage who was a fireman.
  • These two last, crying between whiles, wondered how the young lady could keep up so this last day, and settled it between them that she was not likely to care much for Helstone, having been so long in London.

worth one's while

Worth the time or effort spent.
Example sentences
  • Prizes will be up for grabs among the entrants so lots of imagination, humour and effort could be well worth your while.
  • Today, discontent tended to make me think it's all a hollow shell, that perhaps all that effort, all that sacrifice, were not worth my while.
  • You might not agree with everything there, but hopefully you'll find it all provocative, informative, and generally worth your while.


Old English hwīl 'period of time', of Germanic origin; related to Dutch wijl, German Weile; the conjunction is an abbreviation of Old English thā hwīle the 'the while that'.

Words that rhyme with while

aisle, Argyle, awhile, beguile, bile, Carlisle, Carlyle, compile, De Stijl, ensile, file, guile, I'll, interfile, isle, Kabyle, kyle, lisle, Lyle, Mikhail, mile, Nile, pile, rank-and-file, resile, rile, Ryle, Sieg Heil, smile, spile, stile, style, tile, vile, Weil, wile, worthwhile

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: while

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