1. A child’s toy, spun or whirled around like a wheel upon an axis, or like a top.
2. Anything which whirls around, or in which persons or things are whirled about, as a frame with seats or wooden horses. With a whirligig of jubilant mosquitoes spinning about each head. (G. W. Cable)
3. A mediaeval instrument for punishing petty offenders, being a kind of wooden cage turning on a pivot, in which the offender was whirled round with great velocity.
4. (Science: zoology) Any one of numerous species of beetles belonging to Gyrinus and allied genera. The body is firm, oval or boatlike in form, and usually dark coloured with a bronzelike luster. These beetles live mostly on the surface of water, and move about with great celerity in a gyrating, or circular, manner, but they are also able to dive and swim rapidly. The larva is aquatic.
Synonym: weaver, whirlwig, and whirlwig beetle.
Origin: Whirl – gig.