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A wolf whistle is a distinctive two-note whistled sound made to show high interest in or approval of something or someone, especially a woman viewed as physically or sexually attractive. Today, a wolf whistle directed at a woman is sometimes considered a precursor to sexual harassment, or a form of sexual harassment in itself.[1][2][3]

According to Adam Edwards of Daily Express, the wolf whistle originates from the navy General Call made with a boatswain's pipe. The General Call is made on a ship to get the attention of all hands for an announcement. Sailors in harbour would whistle the General Call upon seeing a sexy, attractive woman to draw fellow sailors' attention to her. It was eventually picked up by passers-by, not knowing the real meaning of the whistle, and passed on.[4][better source needed] During a 2015 broadcast of A Way with Words, doubt was cast upon this explanation by lexicographer Grant Barrett, who noted that it was very thinly supported.[5] Interestingly, the Turn To Call is far closer to the wolf whistle than the General Call.[6]


  1. ^ "Wolf-whistling is just the start – harassment is not harmless". The Guardian. March 8, 2012. Retrieved December 18, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Wolf-whistling "could be made illegal" under new European convention". The Daily Telegraph. March 8, 2012. Retrieved December 18, 2014. 
  3. ^ "'Wolf-whistling isn't fun, it's humiliating': Hollaback! campaign aims to end street harassment". Hull Daily Mail. June 17, 2014. Archived from the original on December 19, 2014. Retrieved December 18, 2014. 
  4. ^ Edwards, Adam. "You just put your lips together and wolf whistle". Daily Express. 4 August 2011.
  5. ^ Barrett, Grant. "Wolf Whistle". (Audio podcast, requires SoundCloud player for access.) A Way with Words. 11 December 2015.
  6. ^ United State Navy Band, Boatswain's Calls, retrieved 2017-10-30 

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