The two-time Olympic champion scored 15.166 for his routine, the same as Xiao Ruoteng, but a lower execution mark ensured the Chinese star claimed gold, leaving Whitlock with silver and Chinese Taipai's Lee Chih-kai with bronze.
It completes a season of frustration for Whitlock, who was beaten in all three major competition this season on his favoured apparatus and finishes 2018 without an individual gold medal at a major competition.
He picked up Commonwealth Games silver behind Northern Ireland's Rhys McClenaghan on the Gold Coast before an error at the European Championships in Glasgow cost him a shot gold – with McClenaghan again going on to claim the title.
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Another marginal error prevented him from winning the world title for a third time in a row but the 25-year-old, although partially disappointed, admits he is taking plenty of positives into the off-season.
"I am gutted because I hit the pommel on my second skill which is really annoying. I knew I would then have to make the rest of my routine perfect,” he said.
"But looking at it I can't be annoyed or gutted with a silver medal at the World Championships. I was hoping for a bit more but that is just the way it goes sometimes.
"I am happy with the job I have done at the World Championships and now it is about moving forwards.
Max Whitlock in August 2018
Image credit: Reuters
"I have taken so many positives from my year and I have taken another one from that. I have changed my routine halfway through and I was going for a higher start value, which if I had made that then I would have got a higher score.
"Looking at this whole year as an outsider, some bits can be a negative but for me it is all positive.
"I am really looking forward to getting back to the gym and recovering – it has been a very busy year."
There was a welcome return to the international fold for Rio 2016 Olympian Becky Downie after a year out injured but she was also frustrated with a seventh-place finish on the uneven bars.
Downie, whose sister Ellie is also in Doha, fell during her routine after losing her swing and finished with a score of 13.333.
"I did not even think I would make it back to this point. So it is amazing to be here but it is not what I want. It gets to the point where you think you will never do it, so it is hard," she said.
"The start of my routine was pretty good. Being up first, I did not have much of a choice to go for the bigger routines so I took the risk.
"I did not quite catch my connection right and my angles were off in the middle so I did not complete the skill in the end.
"Looking back, I could have done the easier routine but being first I had to take a risk and it has not paid off – it sucks.
"I cannot look back and think it was because of a lack of effort. I have done well to come this far but it still hurts."
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