e.g. in the Merry Wives of Windsor, Act V, Scene 1:

Since I plucked geese, played truant, and whipped top, I knew not what it was to be beaten till lately.

I assume it's some form of game or diversion, but I can't seem to find out what. It's also used in Hudibras:

For as whipp'd tops, and bandy'd balls,

The learned hold, are animals

Any context or explanation for these quotations would be very much appreciated.

  • 1
    This is archaic? Okay, now I feel old. Granted I would have thought it an old-fashioned game as a child and knew it went back to at least Victorian times (learning later it went back further again), but I did still whip a top as a child. (Or tried to, it always just made it fall over for me).
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 4:08
  • @Jon Hannah - 3 years later. Have a look at my answer below. You can still buy these in 2018. Just Google 'whip and top toy' and then clcik on Shopping. Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 10:06

3 Answers 3


Seems to indicate that the toy top was spun by whipping it with a stick - much the same way that "rolling hoops" was played.

  • 3
    Either that, or a string was wrapped around the top and attached to a stick (as a whip is). Cracking the "whip" would release the top at quite a speed.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 16:47
  • Here's a video. Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 20:20
  • @StoneyB - That's really cool - never saw it before.
    – Oldbag
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 20:24

Ah, presumably it means to play with a spinning top? Wouldn't have known these were popular in Shakespeare's time!


It's not even archaic. You can still buy these in some toy-shops, especially those frequented by a particular type of middle-class educated people.

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Extract from Children's Games (1560)

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Chinese Men Whipping Tops on Ice Surface - https://www.toysperiod.com/blog/games/discovering-spinning-tops/

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