Whiney or Whiny – What’s the Difference?

While some children sound like horses, most do not. Most children do, however, spend a lot of time complaining at some point in their lives.

Children rely on adults to meet most of their needs as they develop. Therefore, they often come across as whiny. Or are they whinny? If you want to avoid comparing children to livestock, you will want to know the difference between these words, as well as their correct spellings.

What is the Difference Between Whiney and Whiny?

In this article, I will compare whiny vs. whiney. I will outline when it is appropriate to use each spelling by doing so in sentence examples.

I will also demonstrate a useful memory tool that you can use when you cannot decide whether whiny or whiney is a better choice.

When to Use Whiny

Definition of whiny definition and definition of whiney definition What does whiny mean? Whiny is an adjective. It means complaining incessantly in an irritating manner.

Here are some examples,

  • “Karen, your daughter is so whiny; why aren’t you more firm with her?” Jeannine asked.
  • The excuses of the defeated candidate were little more than whiny, partisan frustration.
  • “When I tell Marcos not to order sausage on our pizza, he acts like a whiny child,” Bradford said.
  • Maybe Madden coming up to me later at the arena to specify that he didn’t just call Trotz a whiny loser; he called him a “whiny no-neck loser.” –The Washington Post

Whiny is not to be confused with whinny, which is a noun referring to the sound a horse makes.

When to Use Whiney

What does whiney mean? Whiney is a misspelling of whiny. Some dictionaries will list it simply as a substandard variant of whiny, but there really isn’t any good reason or context to use this spelling. You are better off always choosing whiny instead.

As you can see from the chart below, whiny and whinny are part of the common lexicon. Whiney is not, although the error does take place.

whiney versus whiny

This chart is not scientific, or exhaustive. Its data is drawn only from usage in books written in English since 1800. Still, it illustrates a widespread pattern of usage.

When to Use Whinny

Define whiny and define whineyWhat does whinny mean? As we mentioned in the above section, a whinny is a gentle, high-pitched neigh from a horse.

  • Eastern screech owls, by comparison, emit a “wheeee” similar to a horse’s whinny or a vibrating low whistle that sounds like “quohohoho.” –Great Falls Tribune

Unless your kids are making noises like horses, they are probably just whining.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Remembering whiney vs. whiny isn’t difficult because you should always choose whiny. When describing a person or people who complain in a petulant manner, whiny is the only correct spelling. Its counterpart, whiney, is a spelling error.

For the sound a horse makes, choose whinny. If a horse’s vocalizations are plaintive or accusatory, they may be whiny whinnies.

You can remember to choose whiny over whiney since whiney contains the letter E, like the word error. Using whiney is considered an error.

Likewise, since whinny has an extra N, you can use that letter to remember the word neigh, which is a synonym of whinny.


Is it whiney or whiny? Whiney and whiny are two ways to spell the same adjective, which means always complaining.

  • Whiney is the wrong way to spell this word.
  • Whiny is the right way.
  • A separate word, whinny, refers to the sound a horse makes.

Whiney contains the letter E, which you can think of as standing for error.

There is no reason to sacrifice your credibility as a writer by making easily avoidable mistakes. Be sure to check this site any time you have a question on word choice or other writing topics.