Whin - win

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Whin and win form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these. This is one of many of the homophones listed in category:Bridges II which are homophonous in some accents, such as Received Pronunciation (as here), Bridges's 'Southern English', but others, such as Scots, distinguish clearly between wh- and w-.

  • Whin is an English name, more common in Scots and other northern dialects it is probably of Scandinavian origin), for Ulex europæus, which is also known as gorse and furze, of which gorse may be the more common term in Standard English.
    • OED lists a second whin, one that appears to be obsolescent: whin is a clipped form of whinstone, a name for various rocks including basalt, chert and dolerite , all noted for their hardness. 'Whin' was more common in Scotland than in England. Geologists still use the term, for example in the name of the Whin sill in northern England, a tabular layer of dolerite in north-east England which underlies the High Force waterfall in Teesdale, and provides firm foundations for much of Hadrian's Wall, and Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh and Lindisfarne Castles.
  • The verb 'to win' means 'to be victorious', 'to defeat [someone or something]'; 'to take possession of', 'to capture'; 'to earn a reward'. In some dialects, there is a strong sense of achieving a successful gathering of the fruits of labour, as in 'winning a harvest home', 'winning coal [from a mine]' (archaically, it also meant 'to prepare a mine for the extraction of a mineral') and 'winning to [a place]', meaning 'arriving at it' ('to win home' ~ to succeed [against difficulty] in returning home'). In general terms it is the opposite of 'to lose', and sometimes it is synonymous with 'to gain', with which there is an etymological connection.
  • The noun 'a win' is used to mean 'a result [in a sporting contest] favourable to the competitor whom [we] favour'.
    • OED also lists some obsolete verbs 'to win'. One is 'to dry crops, peat etc', and the other, being cognate with the obsolete 'to wone', is 'to reside [in a particular dwelling]', 'to live', 'to dwell'.
    • Two obsolete adjectives win mean, first, 'pleasant', 'attractive', 'good to look at'; and, second (paradoxically), 'ill-gotten'.
    • The obsolete nouns listed are 'strife', 'disagreement', 'dispute', 'conflict' (this sense has obviously contributed to some of the senses of the current verb); 'a delight', 'a pleasure', 'a joy' (related to the adjective above); and a rare slang word for 'a [n old] penny'.