ba·​leen | \ bə-ˈlēn How to pronounce baleen (audio) , ˈbā-ˌlēn How to pronounce baleen (audio) \

Definition of baleen

: a horny keratinous substance found in two rows of transverse plates which hang down from the upper jaws of baleen whales

Examples of baleen in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Several other kinds of whales can be found in the Gulf, but Rice’s whales are the only baleen whales living there year-round. Janet Mcconnaughey,, 12 May 2021 That particular task was messy; the harvesting of whale parts — oil to light lamps and use in cosmetics, baleen for whalebone corsets, tongue for food — was hard labor. New York Times, 13 Jan. 2021 This is like a spacecraft’s version of a whale’s baleen, skimming all of the protons from a chunk of space and somehow turning that into a nuclear rocket. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, 9 Dec. 2020 The evolutionary paths of odontocetes and the mysticetes, or the baleen whales, which include filter-feeding humpbacks and blue whales, diverged at least 36 million years ago. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 July 2020 The first baleen whales to evolve filter-fed upon plankton—essentially, tiny, drifting sea bugs. Eric M. Keen, Scientific American, 31 July 2020 The whaling industry collapsed in 1907, when petroleum oil and steel springs largely replaced whale oil and baleen, reported Sarah Zielinski for Smithsonian magazine in 2009. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, 25 Mar. 2020 Scientists have long wondered why whales—baleens, such as humpbacks and blues, and toothed whales, such as sperm and killer whales—travel up to 18,840 kilometers every year between their feeding grounds in polar waters and warmer, tropical seas. Virginia Morell, Science | AAAS, 21 Feb. 2020 As for the whale’s bristly baleen, these fibers and plates are flexible and resistant to fracture thanks to high levels of keratin. Sarah Keartes, National Geographic, 30 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'baleen.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of baleen

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for baleen

Middle English baleine whale, baleen, from Latin balaena whale; akin to Greek phallaina whale

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Time Traveler for baleen

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The first known use of baleen was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Baleen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for baleen


ba·​leen | \ bə-ˈlēn How to pronounce baleen (audio) \

Kids Definition of baleen

: a tough material that hangs down from the upper jaw of whales without teeth and is used by the whale to filter small ocean animals out of seawater

More from Merriam-Webster on baleen Encyclopedia article about baleen


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