1. Space of time, or continued duration, especially. When short; a time; as, one while we thought him innocent. All this while. This mighty queen may no while endure. (Chaucer) [Some guest that] hath outside his welcome while, And tells the jest without the smile. (Coleridge) I will go forth and breathe the air a while. (Longfellow)
2. That which requires time; labour; pains. Satan . . . Cast him how he might quite her while. (Chaucer) at whiles, at times; at intervals. And so on us at whiles it falls, to claim powers that we dread. (J. H. Newman) The while, The whiles, in or during the time that; meantime; while. Within a while, in a short time; soon. Worth while, worth the time which it requires; worth the time and pains; hence, worth the expense; as, it is not always worth while for a man to prosecute for small debts.
Origin: AS. Hwil; akin to OS. Hwil, hwila, OFries. Hwile, D. Wigl, G. Weile, OHG. Wila, hwila, hwil, Icel. Hvila a bed, hvild rest, Sw. Hvila, Dan. Hvile, Goth. Hweila a time, and probably to L. Quietus quiet, and perhaps to Gr. The proper time of season. Cf. Quiet, Whilom.