Whir or Whirr vs. Were

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Whir and whirr are alternate spellings of the same word, and though they are pronounced in the same way as the word were, they are spelled differently and have different meanings. This means they are homophones. We will examine the definitions of the words whir and whirr and were, where these terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Whir and whirr both mean making a sound that resembles the low hum of machinery or of the wings of an insect. Whir and whirr may be used as a noun or as an intransitive verb, which is a verb that does not take an object. Related words are whirs and whirrs, whirred, whirring. The words whir and whirr are onomatopoeia, which are words formed by imitating the sound of a thing or an action.

Were is a form of the word to be. Were may be used as the plural past form or the second person singular past form of the word to be, as well as the past subjunctive of the word to be. The word were is derived from the Old English word wæron.


Against the whir of humming fans, Hamilton shook his head in frustration at the Trump administration’s policies. (The Poughkeepsie Journal)

The wheels crunch over gravel and whirr through red mud as 26-year-old Rafelong, the Coldplay-loving taxi driver from Shillong, drives kamikaze-style to Mawsynram in the East Khasi Hills. (The Hindu)

Yesterday’s second round saw McIlroy attract another large following around the Glashedy Links and there were a number of occasions when he had to back off shots as mobile phones and cameras clicked and whirred during his shotmaking. (The Irish Examiner)

The movement of rocks and water were kind to her skeleton, leaving it largely intact and whole. (The Atlantic)

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