wind (noun, verb) /wɪnd, waɪnd/ LISTEN
You probably already know that wind is air in motion and also breath. Colloquially, wind means ‘hint’ and ’empty talk,’ as well as ‘gas generated in the stomach’ in the UK. Related to this, the verb wind means ‘make short of breath.’ Unrelatedly, and with the second pronunciation listed above, wind is also a verb that means ‘to take a twisting course,’ ‘to wrap around,’ and ‘to tighten the spring of something.’ As a noun, a wind is a single bend or twist.
- Somehow, David got wind of the fact that his wife was having an affair.
- Oh, don't take too much notice of what James says; it's all just wind.
- I had cabbage for lunch and now I have terrible wind.
- The rugby player was winded by the hard tackle.
- The narrow road winds through the mountains.
- Nancy has a nervous habit of winding a strand of her hair around her finger.
- My grandfather winds the old clock every morning.
- The path through the garden was full of winds and bends.
Words often used with wind
which way the wind blows: how events are likely to turn out. Example: “Sheila could see which way the wind was blowing; the business was clearly in trouble, so she started looking for another job.”
in the wind: about to happen. Example: “Nothing exciting has happened lately, but somehow I feel change is in the wind.”
take the wind out of someone’s sails: to subdue or chasten someone, often through something that surprises or shocks them. Example: “The boss took the wind out of the cocky young employee’s sails by telling him she was giving the promotion to someone else.”
wind up, wind something up: to come or bring to a close. Example: “We want to wind the meeting up before lunch if possible.”
wind up: arrive in a place or situation as a result of a course of action. Example: “The young man wound up in jail after robbing a bank.”
wind someone up (UK): make someone tense, nervous, or irritable. Example: “Stop winding your little brother up; I’m too busy to deal with you fighting!”
wind down, wind something down: come or bring to a close. Example: “This is the final day and the conference is starting to wind down.”
wind down: relax. Example: “At the end of a long day, Raphaël likes to wind down with a glass of wine.”
In pop culture
Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights, published in 1847, is about a man, Heathcliff, who lives in a wild and windy place (wuther is a dialect word that describes how the wind gusts and howls, particularly around open spaces like the moorland where Heathcliff lives). Heathcliff is a bad-tempered man who is grieving his lost love, Cathy, often imagining he hears her ghost tapping at his window. Inspired by the novel, singer-songwriter Kate Bush wrote and performed a song named “Wuthering Heights,” released as a single in 1978.
The Wind in the Willows is a classic British children’s story written by Kenneth Grahame. A willow is a kind of tree. In this video, you’ll hear the story and see the illustrations.
Did you know?
Another interesting expression using the word wind is sail close to the wind, which literally, when you’re talking about a boat or ship, means ‘to sail as nearly as possible in the direction from which the wind is coming,’ but figuratively means ‘to take a risk’ or ‘to engage in behavior likely to get you into trouble.’ Example: “So you think my wife isn’t very friendly? You should be careful what you say next; you’re already sailing very close to the wind!”
Wind, meaning ‘air in motion,’ dates back to before the year 900. The Old English noun wind comes from the Proto-Germanic windaz, and is related to the Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch and Dutch wind, the Old Norse vindr, the Old High German wind, the German Wind, and the Gothic winds. If we look further back, we can find the origin of the word in the Proto-Indo-European gerund we-nt-o (blowing), from the root we– (to blow), which is also the origin for the Old Irish feth (air), the Welsh gwynt (wind) and the Breton gwent (wind), as well as the Latin noun ventus and many Romance language words for wind. The verb comes from the noun, and first appeared (meaning ‘to perceive by scent or to get wind of’) around the year 1400, though the most common meaning today, ‘to knock the wind out of someone,’ is from around the year 1800. The unrelated verb wind, ‘to wrap around,’ or ‘to take a twisting course,’ also dates back to before the year 900. The Old English verb windan (later the Middle English verb winden) meant ‘to turn, twist, curl or plait,’ comes from the Proto-Germanic verb windan (to wind), and is related to the Dutch and German winden, the Old Norse vinda, and the Gothic -windan. It is also related to the English word wander. Interestingly, both these unrelated words used to be pronounced the same way. Wind (moving air) was pronounced with a long i (and rhymed with kind or mind) until the early 18th century, probably due to the influence of the adjective windy, which was always pronounced the way we say it now.