In a word: While

How long is a piece of string?

Yes, that’s the meaning of the word while.

Simply because I want you to wait here while I go down the shops.

How long will that be?

I don’t know.  A while.  Anything from half an hour to a lifetime.

Then there’s another way of using the word:  While I do this can you do that.

This is more definite but still ambiguous.  How long will that be?

As long as it takes.  Anything from half an hour to a lifetime.

it is by definition, a period of time.

Then it gets more ambiguous, in that the arrangements say in place while he is alive.

Being a murder mystery writer and reader, it becomes a sufficient reason to kill a wealthy relative to get their inheritance.  But, if murder is not in mind, then it can be anything from a half-hour to a lifetime!

Less of an enigma is this use of the word:  I’m going the while away the time playing computer games.

At least you know how long that’s going to be, i.e. till you get bored.

This is not to be confused with the word wile, which means to use a cunning or devious means to get someone to do your bidding.

We’ve all heard of feminine wiles.  Granddaughters are experts in using them, I can personally attest to that.

There are other meanings but these are no longer used in modern English.

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