While away or wile away?

Which is correct: while away hours, or to wile away hours? I was asked this question today and thought others may be puzzling the same question. The Macquarie dictionary defines ‘while away’ as to cause time to pass, especially in some easy or pleasant manner, so ‘while away’ is correct in this context. ‘Wile’ means to beguile, lure or entice, so to ‘wile away’ could mean something entirely different, but the actual answer is that both are correct. See these examples: while away, to cause (time) to pass, especially in some easy or pleasant manner (usually followed by away); wile away, to spend or pass (time), especially in a leisurely or pleasurable fashion.



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10 responses to “While away or wile away?

  1. Mary

    The correct answer is “wile” – see meaning 5 (verb phrase) in this dictionary.com entry:


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  3. thanks so much for this – the exact answer to the question I had 🙂 I am going with wile away as I’m writing about something fun. Thanks again.

  4. Thanks for the explanation! Exactly what I was looking for. 🙂

  5. peg

    Thanks! I love to find the answer to the exact question I have. However, if both are correct, are there nuances I should be aware of in writing?

    • writeronline

      Hello, Peg. Lovely to hear from you. To answer your question, it really depends on which dictionary you look at, but my feeling is that if you’re concerned, perhaps use ‘while away’ because of what could be perceived to be negative connotations associated with ‘wile’. ‘Wile’ probably comes from the Scandinian word vel (craft, fraud) or vela (defraud). Also, if someone wiled a child away from their home, for instance, this would also not be a nice thing to do. So, while both ‘while away’ and ‘wile away’ are correct in the usual context of time passing in a pleasant manner, if you’re worried, rather use ‘while away’. I hope that helps!

  6. You have made some good points there. I looked on the web to find out more about the issue and
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    views on this web site.

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