With the vast nature of the English language, we’d inevitably encounter words that look alike, or differ very slightly like by a letter or so. It’s easy to get these words confused with one another too. Like, is it ‘whisp’ or ‘wisp?’ Are they the same? Let’s see!
Whisp or Wisp – Which Is Correct?
‘Wisp’ is the correct term, while ‘whisp’ is incorrect. While some confuse ‘whisp’ as what we call a flock of snipes (a type of bird), most dictionaries don’t recognize ‘whisp’ as a word and call the flock ‘wisps’ instead. ‘Wisp’ can also mean a small delicate piece of something.
The main difference between ‘wisp’ and ‘whisp’ is that one is a real word and one is not. ‘Wisp’ is what we call a small, thin, delicate piece of something like ‘a wisp of hair’ or a ‘wisp of smoke.’
On the other hand, some sites or articles confuse ‘whisp’ as the term we call a flock of snipes. Snipes are species of birds with a long, slender bill. However, this is incorrect as the correct term for a flock of snipes is ‘wisp’ as well. So, snipes fly in loose and free flocks that are called ‘wisps.’
‘Wisp’ can also be seen or noticed in the common phrase ‘will-o’-the-wisp’ which means having an unattainable, delusive, or elusive goal, or a person or thing that seems to be fleeting or illusory.
Given this, ‘wisp’ is a real, correct word with various meanings, while ‘whisp’ is not a word at all. Given the difference between the two, they are also most definitely not interchangeable with one another.
A word similar or close to ‘whisp’ is ‘whisper’ which means to speak quietly using the breath and not the voice. This word also holds a different meaning from ‘wisp,’ so ‘whisper’ and ‘wisp’ are not interchangeable as well.
‘Whisp’ is not a correct term or word. While it seems recognized on very few sites, formal, academic dictionaries do not consider ‘whisp’ a word as it has no meaning. The nearest word to ‘whisp’ would be ‘whisper’ which has a different meaning as well.
If you’re wondering, ‘is whisp a word?’ the answer is that no, it is not a word. ‘Whisp’ is not a word as it is not recognized in dictionaries, and neither does it have a meaning. One may have confused ‘whisp’ with ‘wisp.’
Some websites refer to ‘whisp’ as the term used to describe a flock of snipes which is a type of bird with long bills. However, wildlife websites and communities correct this as ‘wisp’ and not ‘whisps.’ Snipes fly in loose, free flocks that are actually called ‘wisps’ and not ‘whisp.’ This further shows that ‘whisp’ has no meaning.
Another possibility as to why you believed ‘whisp’ was a word, is confusing it with ‘wisp’ which means a small, delicate, or thin piece or line of something. Examples are ‘a wisp of smoke’ or ‘a wisp of grass.’ In this case, we use ‘wisp’ and not ‘whisp’ as well.
Below are examples of using ‘whisp’ incorrectly in a sentence.
- Incorrect: I saw a whisp of snipes flying a while ago.
- Incorrect: Whisps of her hair is escaping from her braid.
- Incorrect: I made a basket out of whisps of grass and leaves.
- Incorrect: All I see is a whisp of the fog because of the cold weather.
- Incorrect: On the internet, you will encounter lots of whisps of fake news.
- Incorrect: The cow ate the grass, whisp by whisp.
In the sentences above, if corrected, all sentences should be replaced with ‘wisp’ or ‘wisps’ instead of ‘whisp/whisps’ as the correct word with the appropriate meaning that applies to the contexts of the sentence is ‘wisp’ and not ‘whisp.
‘Wisp’ is a correct and existing word, validated in formal and academic dictionaries. ‘Wisp,’ as many people know, means a thin, delicate, or small piece or line of something. Examples are saying ‘a wisp of smoke’ or ‘a wisp of hair,’ meaning a small piece of smoke and hair respectively.
If you’ve confused ‘wisp’ with ‘whisp’ or other similar words, and now you’re doubting, ‘is wisp a word?’ it most definitely is. ‘Wisp’ is a correct and valid word you can find in academic dictionaries.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a ‘wisp’ is a ‘a delicate, thin, and sometimes twisting piece or line of something.’
The usage of ‘wisp’ to almost everything like smoke, grass, hair, and other things that you can have a delicate or thin piece or line of. Note that this only doesn’t apply to literal or physical things, but even not physical things like ‘wisps of information’ and the like.
Another less common meaning of ‘wisp’ is its relation to wildlife and bird. ‘Wisp’ is actually what we call a flock of snipes, and snipes are a species of birds or a type of birds that live in wet meadows, brown in color, with long, straight bills. Snipes fly in flocks that we call ‘wisps.’
Given these two meanings of ‘wisps,’ below are examples of using ‘wisp’ in a sentence correctly.
- A wisp of smoke curled in the air after you blew the candle.
- A wisp of her hair kept getting on her face, so I let her borrow my clip.
- If there is the slightest wisp of good weather, I’ll push through with my errands right away.
- She leaked wisps of information to me about the current issue with the officers.
- I reserved one wisp of hay for the horse who arrived later.
- Let’s be cautious of the wisps of information we get online.
- Cirrus clouds can actually be made of wisps of ice crystals.
Will of the Wisp
A common phrase or term that’s associated with ‘wisp’ is ‘will-o’-the-wisp,’ also sometimes spelled as ‘will of the wisp.’ ‘Will of the wisp’ is a phrase, an adjective that means a delusive or elusive goal. It means a misleading goal or a goal that’s hard to achieve.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘will-o’-the wisp’ means ‘something that is impossible to get or achieve.’
The term ‘will of the wisp’ actually has an interesting, mystical origin. The ‘will-o-the-wisp’ is a term also used to call a phosphorescence that is produced through gases from decaying plants in marshy areas. It’s a faint, fleeting, atmospheric ghost light travelers usually see at night.
In ancient and olden days, way back, it was personified as ‘Will with the wisp.’ Will was the guy who was carrying ‘a wisp of light.’ That wisp of light was very faint and fleeting but foolish travelers said to have followed it. This was how the term or phrase was associated later on to mean having an impractical and unreachable goal. In another sense, it can also refer to a person or a thing that seems to be fleeting.
Below are examples of using ‘will of the wisp’ in a sentence.
- We cannot afford to pursue will-of-the-wisp goals without having a clear plan in mind.
- Let’s stop chasing a will-of-the-wisp dream and start being practical.
- Much of the talk about the competition in the company is a ‘will of the wisp.’
- I don’t want to be a leader with will-of-the-wisp objectives for my team.
- Such will-of-the-wisp dreams will end up as a disaster if we keep looking too far.
- Erasing corruption is the will-o-the-wisp that we citizens have been chasing since the start of time.
- You’re like the will-of-the-wisp in my life because you keep disappearing every time I need you.
Which Is Used the Most?
According to the Google Ngram Viewer, throughout the years, ‘wisp’ is used more often than ‘whisp.’ While ‘wisp’ has been consistently used and recognized since the 1900s, ‘whisp’ has also consistently been not used or not recognized throughout time. The gap between the two has also continuously widened since the 1990s.
The reason behind the trends in the usage of the two words, though already pretty obvious, is because while ‘wisp’ has various meanings and applications, ‘whisp’ is not a real and recognized word and does not hold any meaning. Naturally, ‘wisp’ will be used by writers and speakers more often than ‘whisp.’
Between ‘wisp’ and ‘whisp,’ ‘wisp’ is the correct and recognized term or word. ‘Wisp’ can mean a small, thin, delicate piece or line of something, or it can also refer to a flock of snipes. ‘Whisp,’ on the other hand, is incorrect and is not a recognized word.