1. A small fly-wheel fixed on the spindle of a spinning-wheel to maintain or regulate the speed; a small pulley by which the spindle is driven in a spinning-machine. Also locally applied to small wheels or pulleys for other purposes. c1460 Promp. Parv. 526/2 (Winch. MS.) Wharwyl of a spyndyl, vertebrum. 1483 Cath. Angl. 417/1 A Wharle, giraculum, neopellum, vertibulum. 1532 MORE Confut. Tindale Wks. 628/2 Take out thy spindle & bryng me hither the wharle. 1566 in Peacock Engl. Ch. Furnit. (1866) 170 One crwet defaced whearof was made wharles for spindels. 1589 Shuttleworths’ Acc. (Chetham Soc.) 55 Spindles and wharles ijd. 1828 Craven Gloss., Wharle. 1884 W. S. B. MCLAREN Spinning (ed. 2) 239 [They] drive this spindle by the friction of a very heavy collar on it against a large leather washer, which rests on the wharl. c1440 Promp. Parv. 526/1 Whorlwyl, of a spyndyl (K. whorwhil, P. whorle), vertebrum. 1483 Cath. Angl. 298 A Qworle of A roke. 1610 R. VAUGHAN Water-Wks. O4b, The Stanke-royall (running on a whorle, his sluce being taken vp) is receiued by a Bastard-sluce. 1773 EMERSON Princ. Mech. (ed. 3) 189 Let EG be a spinning wheel,..whilst the rim makes 1 revolution, the twill makes 9, and the whorle and feathers 6. 1808 JAMIESON, Whorle, a very small wheel, as that in a child’s cart. 1865 LUBBOCK Preh. Times v. 133 Spindle whorls of rude earthenware were abundant in some of the Lake-villages even of the Stone age. 1886 J. BARROWMAN Sc. Mining Terms 73 Whorls, pithead pulleys.
2. Bot. A set of members, as leaves, flowers, or parts of the flower, springing from the stem or axis at the same level and encircling it; a verticil. Also in Zool. a set of parts or structures, as scales or tentacles, similarly arranged. [1551 TURNER Herbal I. Gvj, The stalke is foure square,..where about doth grow in equal order,..certayne knoppes, lyke whorlles. 1578 LYTE Dodoens II. lxv. 232 The floures [of Pennyroyal] growe..about the stemmes like whorles or garlandes.] 1688 HOLME Armoury II. 98/2 Rosemary, hath Wharles or small slender leaves set at distances about the stalk. Ibid. 106/1 Flowers set together in a Whorle or Coronett. 1713 PETIVER in Phil. Trans. XXVIII. 43 Its Spikes of Flowers are thick set in striated hairy whorls. 1837 Penny Cycl. VII. 215/1 An orange..consists of one whorl of carpels, which are consolidated into a round fruit. 1860 SALA Lady Chesterf. iv. 64 A flattened head,..a forked tongue, a body of scaly whorls. 1861 BENTLEY Man. Bot. 358 A flower is said to be complete, when the four whorls,calyx, corolla, stamens, and pistil are present. 1872 H. A. NICHOLSON Palæont. 75 The stem terminates in a single polypite, the mouth of which is surrounded by a single whorl of slender processes or ‘tentacles’.
3. a. Conch. and Anat. Each of the turns, coils, or convolutions of a spiral shell, or of any spiral structure. 1828 STARK Elem. Nat. Hist. II. 52 Shell conoid, with the whorls rounded or convex. 1855 TENNYSON Maud II. ii. 6 See what a lovely shell, Small and pure as a pearl,..With delicate spire and whorl. 1890 BILLINGS Med. Dict., Whorl of heart, vortex of heart. [Ibid., Vortex of heart, the close spiral arrangement of fibres which occurs at the apex.] b. A configuration in finger-prints. 1880, etc. [see LOOP n.1 4h]. 1954 F. CHERRILL Cherrill of Yard vi. 62, I noticed particularly the patterns on the ends of the fingers, for they were of the whorl type. 1977 Sci. Amer. Dec. 141/1 The resulting patterns are known to the dermatologist respectively as loops, triradii and whorls.
4. gen. A convolution, coil, curl, ‘wreath’ (esp. of something whirling, or suggesting a whirling movement). 1592 R. D. Hypnerotomachia 51 The head of a Storke, with her beake against the open mouth of a Monster,..and certaine Whorelles or Beades rysing vp betwixt his mouth and her beake. 1851 NICHOL Archit. Heav. (ed. 9) 99 Intervals between successive whorls of the starry stream. 1863 BARING-GOULD Iceland xii. 210 Vast clouds of steam..roll in heavy whorls before the wind.
5. Comb., as whorl-flowered, -leaved, -shaped adjs.; whorl-flower, a plant of the genus Morina (N.O. Dipsacaceæ), having the flowers in dense whorls; whorl-grass, a grass of the genus Catabrosa. 1822 Hortus Angl. II. 204 M[alva] Verticillata, Whorl-flowered Mallow. Ibid. 423 C[oreopsis] Verticillata, Whorl-leaved Coreopsis. 1850 DAUBENY Atom. The. xii. (ed. 2) 423 The parts of the pistils are disposed in a whorl-shaped manner around an..axis. 1861 MISS PRATT Flower. Pl. (1900) IV. 69 Whorl-grass (Catabrosa). Water Whorl Grass (C. aquatica). Panicle with half whorls of spreading branches. 1884 MILLER Plant-n. 220 Morina longifolia, Long-leaved Whorl-flower.persica, Persian Whorl-flower. Hence whorl v. trans., (a) to draw up by means of a ‘whorl’ or pulley (local); (b) to arrange in whorls or convolutions. 1886 J. BARROWMAN Sc. Mining Terms 73 The cage is said to be whorled when it is drawn up to or over the pulleys. 1904 Daily Chron. 6 Aug. 4/5 The stars, braided and whorled in patterns too intricate for our eyes.