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1. A violent gust of cold wind blowing seaward from a mountainous coast, especially in the Straits of Magellan.
2. A sudden gust of wind; a squall.

[Origin unknown.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. (Physical Geography) a sudden strong gust of cold wind blowing offshore from a mountainous coast, as in the Strait of Magellan
2. a state of great turmoil
[C19: of unknown origin]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˈwɪl iˌwɔ)

a violent squall that blows in near-polar latitudes, as in the Strait of Magellan, Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands.
[1835–45; orig. uncertain]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(1) See the popular history by Dallas Murphy, Rounding the Horn: Being a Story of Williwaws and Windjammers, Drake, Darwin, Murdered Missionaries and Naked Natives--A Deck's Eye View of Cape Horn (New York: Basic Books, 2004).
Williwaws (blasts of wind) are known to rush down the steep mountainsides, but the anchorage is secure.
Instead of putting a stop to Hitler's "Desert Fox" in Africa, soldiers boarded transport ships and sailed north to the Aleutian Islands where the freezing waters of' the Bering Sea and the North Pacific Ocean collide, a place where storms, called williwaws, grant no mercy, and mistakes can send ships and men to icy graves on the ocean floor.