Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • conj. Chiefly British While.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • conj. While, at the same time.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adv. While.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Same as while, or whiles, in all its senses.
  • In the mean time.

Etymologies

Middle English whilest, alteration of whiles, whiles; see whiles.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From whiles +‎ -t. Cognate with West Frisian wylst ("whilst"). More at whiles. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Do it for a term whilst grooming a good successor on (or especially put onto) the GLA and, if you do a good job, you will be rewarded with a place in a future Cabinet, future (elected or unelected) Upper House etc, whatever you want.

    Fallout From the London Nightmayor

  • According to the Independent Schools Council parents hoping to send their child to a private school will mean shelling out, on average, £3,000 a term whilst fees including student boarding are usually around £7,500.

    Daily Financial News

  • I find the image of a traditional British bobby with his arm round the shoulder of the late, unlamented, Sadam Hussein whilst waving a wedge of notes a design classic. on July 29, 2009 at 8: 57 pm R/T

    Islam? Yes. Gay? Yes. British? No, Oh, OK then. « POLICE INSPECTOR BLOG

  • I did have a fantasy last night, whilst watching the three of four useful idiots who put the windows of RBS in whilst surrounded by at least 30 if not 50 journalists, of locking up the press pack who were there on conspiracy charges and assisting an offender.

    Ready And Waiting….. and waiting, and waiting…. « POLICE INSPECTOR BLOG

  • We invite open-minded and perceptive people to feel the Buddha within whilst trekking from lush tropical forests to the arid high plateaus.

    More Trek | SciFi, Fantasy & Horror Collectibles

  • From one hand he uses gouache, hand painted monochromed based objects whilst from the other hand he uses “Depth Map” a technique where every pixel on the object is a shade of gray that is proportional to its distance from the object looking at it.

    Artwork by Kazuki Takamatsu | My[confined]Space

  • I was awarded the Purple Heart for hand-to-hand conflict I was involved in whilst in Mogadishu,

    LOCKHART PAUL

  • The BoE is short of £200bn and buying that back will not be so easy short term whilst the Bank's MPC has to come to terms with the now massive cumulative overshoot of the CPI against target.

    The coalition counts on blaming Labour for everything. Bad move| Rafael Behr

  • Quote of the night from Conservative Home's live blogging, which I was reading and participating in whilst watching the programme and live blogging here - who says only women can multitask?

    Archive 2008-01-01

  • One item that I will repeat is a quote from Peter Hain whilst he was Leader of the House of Commons, he sad this on 26 June 2003 It is of the greatest importance that the conduct of Members of the House meets, and is seen to meet, the high standards expected by the Wicks committee [on standards in public life], and also by our constituents.

    Archive 2008-01-01

Comments

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  • "I like to whistle whilst I work. It helps to whilst away the hours."
    - The Tapeworm Chronicles

    May 17, 2011

  • Perhaps that should go on a T...? (Suddenly self-conscious about my ellipsis spacing)

    May 16, 2011

  • I like that frogapplause likes that the -t is referred as a parasitic t.

    May 16, 2011

  • I like that the -t (of whilst, amongst, and amidst) is referred to as a parasitic t.

    May 16, 2011

  • Thanks, Yarb, and everyone, for contributing to this topic. I'm particularly interested because in the last year or so I've been getting more requests to translate things into British English, and I thought this might mean not only writing "colour" and "analyse" but also things like "whilst" and "amongst", which goes against my American grain. But now I will revert happily to using "while" and "among" in such texts.

    May 16, 2011

  • Yes, definitely rolig. I would be very surprised to hear whilst used in normal speech by someone under the age of 35, and in a young person it does sound quite plummy and public school, that is if it's not an obvious affectation. However - and the more I think about this the less certain I am - it's the sort of word you also hear on the lips of working-class pensioners in pubs - especially, and here it gets bizarre, old women.

    So there you go, unreliable anecodtalism at its finest from someone who hasn't lived in the UK for seven years.

    May 16, 2011

  • Rolig, you're wonderful. I know my example about bilby's ears sounded more like an unfinished sentence--but I really was asking about omission of content. Poor bilby.

    May 16, 2011

  • Yarb, do you think "whilst" carries any particular marking? Does it sound especially posh or Etonian to you? Would you be surprised to hear a teenager say it in normal speech?

    May 16, 2011

  • Speaking as a subject of Her Majesty, I can confirm that whilst, amongst and amidst are in common use in speech and informal writing, although in all three cases I think the non -st forms predominate.

    Personally I don't like and never use whilst; the other two I'm neutral on and cannot with certainty deny that they occasionally pass my lips.

    Actually, on reflection, I think I prefer amidst to amid, but among to amongst - purely arbitrary I suppose.

    May 16, 2011

  • Thanks, friend.

    May 15, 2011

  • *hands rolig a glass of water*

    May 15, 2011

  • PU, you have probably been reading a mix of British- and US-published books. No one in the US, as far as I know, uses single quotation marks (or "inverted commas", as the Brits like to call them) to indicate first-level quotations; the single quotation marks are used (in the US) only for quotes within quotes (i.e. second-level quotations), as in: PU cited the example, "Bilby said, 'My ears are stuck!' "

    As for the question of dots and spaces, first I think it is important to distinguish between using ellipsis to indicate omission of content and using it to indicate an unfinished thought or sentence. The example Ruzuzu offers sounds to me like an unfinished sentence, not omission of content. In this case I would use space, three spaced periods, space:

    "Then bilby got his ears caught in the frivolous blades of the . . ."

    Unless I am forced to use the "ellipsis symbol" MS Word devised, where they scrunch the three periods together in the most unnatural way. Then the space after the word looks strange. So I scrunch the symbol right up to the word:

    "Then bilby got his ears caught in the frivolous blades of the…"

    In the case of omission of content, it all depends where that omitted content was. If it was in the middle of the sentence, then I use space, three spaced periods, space:

    "Then bilby got his ears caught in the . . . blades of the Wordnik copter. What did he expect? The ears were never seen again."

    If it comes at the end of the sentence, then I use space, three spaced periods, space, sentence-final period:

    "Then bilby got his ears caught in the frivolous blades . . . . What did he expect? The ears were never seen again."

    If the omitted text comes after the end of a sentence, then I put in the sentence-final period, space, three spaced dots, space:

    "Then bilby got his ears caught in the frivolous blades of the Wordnik copter. . . . The ears were never seen again."

    Of course, in both combinations (sentence period + ellipsis; ellipsis + sentence period), MS Word's scrunched up ellipsis makes things ugly, so I use period, space, ellipsis symbol, space for both:

    "Then bilby got his ears caught in the frivolous blades. … What did he expect? The ears were never seen again."

    "Then bilby got his ears caught in the frivolous blades of the Wordnik copter. … The ears were never seen again."


    May 15, 2011

  • Chicago style, of which I am an adherent, places the period immediately after the last word and then adds ellipses: "Then bilby got his ears caught in the frivolous blades of the Wordnik copter....The ears were never seen again."

    Inverted commas: "Blecch."

    May 15, 2011

  • I usually go "Then bilby got his ears caught in the frivolous blades of the... ." (No space, ellipsis, full stop. It's hard to do on Wordnik, but on Word it comes out much neater.) I haven't really thought about it before.

    What about quotation marks and inverted commas? Many books these days use inverted commas for speech. eg. Bilby said, 'My ears are stuck!' as opposed to "My ears are stuck!". I personally prefer " as speech marks.

    May 15, 2011

  • Does anyone else use spaces and ellipses for partial quotations? It would be something like this: "Then bilby got his ears caught in the frivolous blades of the . . . ." (Space, ellipsis, period.)

    May 15, 2011

  • I can't stand to put a comma or period outside quotes, but exclamation marks and question marks are another story. And I heard that frivolously misusing Australians is only common in Britain.

    May 15, 2011

  • As an American, let me just stand up and say that I hate the American style. It seems dishonest to place anything inside quotation marks that isn't actually part of the quote.

    I suspect that this skulduggery has its origins in colonial times, when the king imposed a tax on periods and commas, and so the Americans had to smuggle them into the colonies wrapped inside innocent-looking quotation marks.

    May 15, 2011

  • Just read an article in Slate that argues for the British style of outside punctuation (which it calls "logical") vs. the presumably illogical American style. While I see the merits, I still can't bring myself to change after eons of being an American editor. :-)

    May 15, 2011

  • I've come to think of the "-st" forms as standard for Brits because so many of the British-English texts I edit use them. But I just ran some Google n-gram searches on while/whilst, among/amongst, and amid/amidst for British English, and in all cases the non-st form dominates, though the showings for the -st forms are also quite healthy. When I ran the same searches for American English, the presence of the forms "whilst" and "amongst" is almost at 0 in the latter half of the 20th century (they had greater use in the 19th century), while "amidst" is still fairly competive with "amid".

    More comparisons should probably be done to make any definite conclusion, but my sense is that the "-st" forms exist as acceptable unmarked alternatives in British English, without any feeling that they are pretentious.

    As for my comment about commas, in British practice, the comma and period normally go outside the quotation marks (whether single or double) when quoting anything less than a complete sentence. Examples:

    British style: There is considerable discussion at Wordnik about the "frivolous misuse of Australians". (The period goes outside the partial quote.)

    American style: There is considerable discussion at Wordnik about the "frivolous misuse of Australians." (The period goes inside the partial quote – illogically, because it does not belong to the quotation, but Americans like the way it looks anyway.)

    but both British and American styles find the following acceptable:
    Pterodactyl commented, "I feel a need to do something frivolous with Australians." (The period goes inside because it is part of the complete sentence that is being quoted.)

    May 15, 2011

  • *considers misusing Australians frivolously whilst stuffing cookies into pockets*

    May 15, 2011

  • It's too late, bilby. I listened to frogapplause, and now I feel a need to do something frivolous with Australians.

    May 15, 2011

  • *charges frogapplause with one count of Inciting the Public to Frivolous Misuse of Australians*

    May 15, 2011

  • It's the kind of word used by Stan in the minutes of Bowls Club meetings. Which, when read by Beryl or Cheryl or Meryl, is pronounced with a whistle through clenched teeth.

    May 15, 2011

  • In my corner of the world and in my corner of Australia, 'whilst' isn't commonly used but when it is, it doesn't sound unnatural or pretentious either.
    I think it could possibly be a dying word...

    I'm intrigued by what rolig said about 'putting a comma after a quotation mark'-- example please? Speech marks or inverted commas?

    May 14, 2011

  • Where's an Australian when we need one? They always seem to be around when we don't need them!

    May 14, 2011

  • And she's doing it whilst preferring a smidge of pie!

    May 14, 2011

  • Oh dear. Whilst we're standing around talking about words, dontcry is eating all the cookies!

    May 14, 2011

  • "Whilst" is definitely more common in the UK than in the US, but would you go as far as to call it "standard"? I read a lot of British books and listen to a lot of British radio, and I don't hear "whilst" very often.

    Any Brits around who might give us an insider's perspective?

    (I'm also curious to hear what the Aussies think!)

    May 14, 2011

  • Hmmm. *ponders usage whilst stuffing another cookie into pie hole*

    May 14, 2011

  • I believe that "whilst", "amongst" and "amidst" are all quite standard in British English (like putting a comma after a quotation mark), without any of that aura of pretentiousness or foppishness that makes Americans groan and giggle.

    May 14, 2011

  • It sounds pretentious to me. I don't like amongst or amidst, either.

    May 14, 2011

  • I love this word and vow to employ it as often as possible at work next week. *giddy with anticipation of the look on the students' faces*

    May 13, 2011

  • This word makes me giggle.

    May 13, 2011