The Meaning of Dog Whistle: What It Is and How To Use It

What does dog whistle mean, and how is it used to refer to veiled racism? This article will cover the covert meanings of dog whistle.

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What is a dog whistle in a metaphorical sense? Most people know what a dog whistle is in a literal sense, but how can this term be used in politics around the world? Is the term dog whistle a dog whistle in itself? Keep reading to learn more about the term dog whistle.

What Does the Word Dog Whistle Mean?

According to Dictionary, the term dog whistle is used in politics to refer to coded communication or symbols used within groups to publicly send secret messages. Often, racist dog whistles are neutral turns of phrase with a controversial secondary message only known by certain political groups. This is often known as “dog-whistle politics.”

Dog whistles are often associated with conservative politics and those who support racism. Racists, anti-Semites, Clinton attackers, and supporters of President Donald Trump have recently taken to using dog whistles on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to discuss politics online without being attacked by liberals, feminists, or people who do not support their beliefs.

This particular group will use a racist dog whistle or code words in tweets and defend themselves using plausible deniability. These special interest groups in the United States might support specific presidential campaigns, or they might have far darker motives. 

This term is associated with racism and secret racist groups. If you do not know which words might be racist or conservative dog whistles and you want to avoid them, do your research to find out which phrases to avoid.

What Is the Origin of Dog Whistle?

What is a dog whistle in real life? It is a whistle that makes a frequency that only canines can hear. Therefore, in this metaphorical sense, a dog whistle means a sort of secret signal that can only be heard or recognized by people in a specific group. But where did the racist origins of dog whistle come from? 

According to the Washington Post, the dog whistle was invented by Francis Galton, who also invented the term eugenics. Eugenics refers to the idea that there is a set of racial differences and that races can be “improved” by genetic selection. The term was first used in an economic history book of the United States to refer to a particular speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The term dog whistle has been used in a political sense since the 1980s. Back then, terms like welfare reform, inner cities, welfare queens, and more were used as conservative dog whistle terms. They also sent political messages about things like Roe v. Wade and Dred Scott Supreme Court decisions during the Bush era. 

What Are Translations of Dog Whistle?

While the term dog whistle often references American politics with racist undertones, this term can be used around the world to refer to coded language. If you are speaking about the idea of coded languages with a non-English speaker, you might want to reference the below translations of dog whistle to learn how to say this phrase in other languages.

  • Tamil: நாய் விசில்
  • German: Hundepfeife
  • Urdu: کتے سیست
  • Hebrew: משרוקית לכלבים
  • Romanian: fluierul câinelui
  • Croatian: zviždati
  • Chinese (PRC): 狗哨子
  • Italian: fischio del cane
  • Malayalam: ഡോഗ് വിസിൽ
  • Slovak: píšťalka
  • Latvian: svilpe
  • Catalan: xiulet de gossos
  • Thai: นกหวีดสุนัข
  • Arabic: صافرة الكلب
  • Amharic: ውሻ ጩኸት
  • Greek: σφυρίχτρα σκυλιών
  • Finnish: koiran pilli
  • Indonesian: peluit anjing
  • Portuguese (Portugal): apito de cachorro
  • Malay: Whistle anjing.
  • Czech: psí píšťalka
  • Russian: свисток собаки
  • Hindi: कुत्ते की सीटी
  • Estonian: koer vile
  • Japanese: 犬笛の
  • Kannada: ನಾಯಿ ಶಬ್ಧ
  • Lithuanian: Šunų švilpukas
  • Serbian: звиждати
  • French: sifflet de chien
  • Bulgarian: свирка на кучето
  • Korean: 개 휘파람
  • Basque: txakur txistua
  • Welsh: chwiban cŵn
  • Icelandic: hundur flaut
  • Vietnamese: còi gọi chó
  • Turkish: Köpek ıslığı
  • Dutch: hondenfluitje
  • Gujarati: કૂતરો વ્હિસલ
  • Hungarian: kutya síp
  • Swahili: Mbwa wa mbwa
  • Swedish: hundfl på
  • Telugu: కుక్క విజిల్
  • Portuguese (Brazil): apito de cachorro
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 狗哨子
  • Norwegian: hund fløyte
  • Ukrainian: собачий свисток
  • Polish: psi gwizdek
  • Spanish: silbato para perros

What Are Synonyms of the Word Dog Whistle?

Power Thesaurus lists numerous related words to dog whistle. Since dog whistle is most often associated with racist or politically charged undertones, it is not appropriate for every situation. 

When you are simply trying to talk about symbols, codes, or coded language, you can use one of the below synonyms of symbol in place of the term dog whistle. This way, people will not think you are speaking about anything politically or racially motivated.

  • abbreviation
  • acronym
  • allegory
  • attribute
  • badge
  • banner
  • brand
  • character
  • cipher
  • coat of arms
  • crest
  • device
  • digit
  • emblem
  • ensign
  • evidence
  • pictograph
  • representation
  • seal
  • sign
  • signal
  • signs
  • stamp
  • symbol
  • symbolism
  • symbolization
  • symbolize
  • symbology
  • token
  • tokens
  • trademark
  • type


A dog whistle term is used to avoid perception by people outside of a particular group. An all-purpose dog-whistle can be used around the world to refer to economics, states’ rights, the Civil Rights Era, racism, sexism, and more. This term is not only used in the United States but worldwide, like in Australia with regard to Australian politics.


  1. Dog whistle Definition & Meaning |
  2. Symbol synonyms – 276 Words and Phrases for Symbol | Power Thesaurus  
  3. Offensive political dog whistles: you know them when you hear them. Or do you? | Vox