from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A small whirlwind, usually of short duration, that swirls dust, debris, and sand to great heights.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A small atmospheric vortex appearing in clear, dry conditions, made visible by swirling dust picked up from the ground.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a miniature whirlwind strong enough to whip dust and leaves and litter into the air


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  • A dust devil is a rotating updraft, ranging from small (half a meter wide and a few meters tall) to large (over 10 meters wide and over 1000 meters tall). Dust devils are usually harmless, but rare ones can grow in size to threaten both people and property. They are comparable to tornadoes in that both are an unusual weather phenomenon of swirling air vortices. Tornadoes form as an updraft attached to a wall cloud at the back of a thunderstorm. Dust devils form as an updraft under sunny conditions during clear to fair weather, rarely coming close to the intensity of a tornado.

    In the southwestern United States, dust devils can be known as dancing devils. In Death Valley, California, they may be called a sand auger or dust whirl.

    In Australia they are called willy-willies or whirly-whirlies, a word thought to come from Yindjibarndi or a neighbouring language.

    Navajo refer to them as chiindii, a ghost or spirit of a Navajo. If a chiindii spins clockwise it is said to be a good spirit; if it spins counterclockwise it is said to be a bad spirit.

    In Egypt, they are usually called "Fasset El 'Afreet" or the ghost's wind.

    Among the Kikuyu of Kenya, it is known as "ngoma cia aka" meaning women's devil's/demon's.


    February 5, 2008