To whinge is to complain, especially in a fretful and persistent way. The word is roughly synonymous with whine, grouse, and gripe, and it often connotes annoyance with the complaining person or a sense that the complaining is unreasonable.

The word is almost nonexistent in American and Canadian English. While we find hundreds of instances of whinge used in U.K., Irish, and Australian news publications over the last few months, North American publications contain only a few scattered examples. Meanwhile, our American spell check catches whinge, our American dictionaries list it as British, and an unscientific poll we conducted suggests that some Americans have no knowledge of the word.

Whinge is old. The OED lists examples from as far back as 1150. Whing was the preferred spelling from around the 17th century until only recently, and whinge now prevails by a large margin. According to an ngram graphing the use of both spellings, this started around 1980.

In either form, the word was rare until the last few decades. It has grown more common since the 1980s and in this century is almost faddish. As Americans, we can’t explain the word’s sudden popularity, so we welcome any comments from readers outside North America.

To form present participles from verbs ending in –ge, we usually drop the e and add –ing. Whingeing is one of the few exceptions, though it’s not always spelled this way; in news publications that publish online, whinging appears about a third as often as whingeing.


Croxteth Labour councillor Peter Mitchell says that, rather than whinge about cuts, the community, with the council, is simply making them work. [Independent]

Needless to say the battle between these two foes plays out against the backdrop of a seething, whinging populace. [Sydney Morning Herald]

[A]n injustice was done but no amount of crying or whingeing or appeals will change the outcome. [Irish Times]

A young thief who whinged that he could not go to prison because he is a ‘fussy eater’ today had his sentence slashed by appeal judges. [Daily Mail]

Attempting (unsuccessfully, for the British hate a whinger, and a Royal whinger even more) to garner sympathy, the Prince portrayed his father as a bully. [Daily Beast]

4 thoughts on “Whinge”

  1. Growing up in Vancouver (Canada) we used whinge, apparently incorrectly, as the preferred term over “cringe” or “flinch”. Example: “When Tommy pretended to throw the ball at John’s face, John whinged.”

  2. I only first started seeing this word used frequently a couple months ago online in social media and it seems to have become common even in news articles where you would not expect obscure words to just appear. I had no idea what it meant before seeing it recently. I was taught the word should be whine. This is from an American perspective. Sometimes I think the novelty of something new or different seems to start a trend.

  3. I have formed the probably incorrect opinion that Ricky Gervais brought the term to certain snarky Americans and that it was taken up by others who thought (a) that it was British and therefore class-ee!, or (b) that they had been doing it all wrong when they wrote “whine” and started correcting themselves because of Language Inferiority Complex.


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