What does while mean?

Definitions for while
ʰwaɪl, waɪlwhile

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word while.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. while, piece, spell, patchnoun

    a period of indeterminate length (usually short) marked by some action or condition

    "he was here for a little while"; "I need to rest for a piece"; "a spell of good weather"; "a patch of bad weather"


  1. whilenoun

    A certain duration of time, a period of time.

    He lectured for quite a long while.

  2. whileverb

    To pass (time) idly.

  3. whileconjunction

    During the same time that.

    He was sleeping while I was singing.

  4. whileconjunction


    This case, while interesting, is a bit frustrating.

  5. whileconjunction


  6. Etymology: hwil. Cognate with wil.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. While, Whiles, Whilstadverb

    Whiles is now out of use.

    Etymology: hwile , Saxon.

    Whiles I was protector,
    Pity was all the fault that was in me. William Shakespeare, Henry VI.

    What we have, we prize not to the worth,
    Whiles we enjoy it; but being lackt and lost,
    Why, then we rack the value. William Shakespeare.

    Repeated, while the sedentary earth
    Attains her end. John Milton.

    Use your memory, and you will sensibly experience a gradual improvement, while you take care not to over-load it. Isaac Watts, Logick.

    Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God, for your professed subjection unto the Gospel. 2 Cor. ix.

    Can he imagine that God sends forth an irresistible strength against some sins, whilst in others he permits men a power of repelling his grace? Decay of Piety.

  2. Whilenoun

    Time; space of time.

    Etymology: weil, German; hwile , Saxon.

    If my beauty be any thing, then let it obtain this much of you, that you will remain some while in this company, to ease your own travel and our solitariness. Philip Sidney.

    I have seen her rise from her bed, and again return to bed; yet all this while in a most fast sleep. William Shakespeare, Macbeth.

    One while we thought him innocent,
    And then w’ accus’d the consul. Ben Jonson, Catiline.

    I hope all ingenuous persons will advertise me fairly, if they think it worth their while, of what they dislike in it. Digby.

    Pausing a while, thus to herself she mus’d. John Milton.

    How couldst thou look for other, but that God should condemn thee for the doing of those things for which thine own conscience did condemn thee, all the while thou wast doing of them? John Tillotson.

    That which I have all this while been endeavouring to convince men to, is no other but what God himself doth particularly recommend. John Tillotson.

    Few, without the hope of another life, would think it worth their while to live above the allurements of sense. Francis Atterbury.

    What fate has disposed of the papers, ’tis not worth while to tell. John Locke.

  3. To Whileverb

    To loiter.

    Etymology: from the noun.

    Men guilty this way never have observed that the whiling time, the gathering together, and waiting a little before dinner, is the most aukwardly passed away of any. Spectator.


  1. While

    While is a word in the English language that functions both as a noun and as a subordinating conjunction. Its meaning varies largely based on its intended function, position in the phrase and even the writer or speaker's regional dialect. As a conjunction, it is synonymous with the word whilst, a form often considered archaic in American English, as well as in some style guides on both sides of the Atlantic.


  1. while

    A "while" is a programming construct that allows a set of instructions to be repeated as long as a certain condition is true. It is often used in loops, where the instructions within the while loop are executed repeatedly until the condition becomes false.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Whilenoun

    space of time, or continued duration, esp. when short; a time; as, one while we thought him innocent

  2. Whilenoun

    that which requires time; labor; pains

  3. Whileverb

    to cause to pass away pleasantly or without irksomeness or disgust; to spend or pass; -- usually followed by away

  4. Whileverb

    to loiter

  5. While

    during the time that; as long as; whilst; at the same time that; as, while I write, you sleep

  6. While

    hence, under which circumstances; in which case; though; whereas

  7. While

    until; till

  8. Etymology: [AS. hwl; akin to OS. hwl, hwla, OFries. hwle, D. wigl, G. weile, OHG. wla, hwla, hwl, Icel. hvla a bed, hvld rest, Sw. hvila, Dan. hvile, Goth. hweila a time, and probably to L. quietus quiet, and perhaps to Gr. the proper time of season. 20. Cf. Quiet, Whilom.]


  1. While

    "While" is a word in the English language that functions both as a noun and as a subordinating conjunction. Its meaning varies largely based on its intended function, position in the phrase and even the writer or speaker's regional dialect. As a conjunction, it is synonymous with the word "whilst", a form often considered archaic in American and Canadian English, as well as in some style guides on both sides of the Atlantic.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. While

    hwīl, n. a space of time: trouble spent.—adv. during the time that: at the same time that, as long as.—v.t. to cause to pass without irksomeness (with away).—conjs. While, Whilst, as long as: at the same time that: (Shak.) until; Whiles (B.), while, at the same time that.—adv. (Scot.) at times (orig. gen. of A.S. hwíl).—advs. Whī′lom, Whī′lome (Milt.), formerly, once (orig. dat. pl. of A.S. hwíl, time).—Every once in a while, now and then; The while (Shak.), in the meantime; The whilst (Shak.), while: in the meantime; Worth while, worth the trouble and time taken. [A.S. hwíl; Goth. hweila, Ger. weile.]

Editors Contribution

  1. while

    A period of known time.

    While at the shop we saw some new cheese we thought we'd try.

    Submitted by MaryC on March 19, 2020  

Suggested Resources

  1. While

    While vs. Whilst -- In this Grammar.com article you will learn the differences between the words While and Whilst.

Surnames Frequency by Census Records

  1. WHILE

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, While is ranked #103655 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

    The While surname appeared 173 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 0 would have the surname While.

    75.7% or 131 total occurrences were White.
    16.1% or 28 total occurrences were Black.
    4.6% or 8 total occurrences were of Hispanic origin.

Matched Categories

British National Corpus

  1. Spoken Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'while' in Spoken Corpus Frequency: #149

  2. Written Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'while' in Written Corpus Frequency: #554

  3. Nouns Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'while' in Nouns Frequency: #744

How to pronounce while?

How to say while in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of while in Chaldean Numerology is: 2

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of while in Pythagorean Numerology is: 3

Examples of while in a Sentence

  1. Joshua Morrison:

    They’d work on my face while they held my wrist. I thought I was actually going to die. I was telling myself in my mind, I’m going to die now, this is it -- just keep fighting, just keep fighting.

  2. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin:

    You can't pull out ... while shelling is coming down on you.

  3. Mitch McConnell:

    Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people. While doing so, Mitch McConnell has gotten rich, in fact, Don Blankenship China family has given him tens of millions of dollars.

  4. Christopher Starr:

    In reading these websites, the information gathered should be used, not as dogma, but as the foundation for a more highly informed one-on-one discussion with your doctor at your next visit, and if it's been a while, reading these websites will hopefully remind diabetic patients of the importance of regular screening exams for diabetic retinopathy.

  5. Henry David Thoreau:

    I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for while

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    like a pulp or overripe; not having stiffness
    • A. greedy
    • B. squashy
    • C. obnoxious
    • D. transparent

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