Definition of while in English:

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Pronunciation: /wʌɪl/


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, season, interval, period, period of time, length of time, duration, run, phase, stage, term
British informal 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.
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 night-time 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] (while something away)
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, kill, beguile


Northern English
Until: father will be happy while dinner time


On the distinction between worth while and worthwhile, see worthwhile (usage). See also awhile (usage).


worth while (or 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

Line breaks: while

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