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 The first baleen whales to evolve filter-fed upon plankton—essentially, tiny, drifting sea bugs. Eric M. Keen, Scientific American, "Why Are Blue Whales So Gigantic?," 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, "Explore 3-D Models of Historic Yukon Structures Threatened by Erosion," 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, "Scientists say they’ve cracked the mystery of why whales migrate—and it’s all about healthy skin," 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, "How a humpback whale ended up with a sea lion in its mouth," 30 July 2019 Ann McMullen, a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, oversees research for its holdings, including the snow goggle collection; the pair shown here was made from whale baleen. Clive Thompson, Smithsonian, "These Snow Goggles Demonstrate Thousands of Years of Indigenous Ingenuity," 19 Dec. 2019 In the study, the researchers suction-cupped their sensors onto the backs of 13 species of both baleen and toothed whales, including porpoises and dolphins of various sizes, allowing the team to track the animals’ underwater activities. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "Whales Are the Biggest Animals to Ever Exist—Why Aren’t They Bigger?," 13 Dec. 2019 Both toothed and baleen (filter-feeding) whales are among the largest animals ever to exist. Jeremy Goldbogen, The Conversation, "Why are whales big, but not bigger?," 12 Dec. 2019 The whales then push out the water and strain the fish through flexible comb-like structures in their mouths called baleen. Sarah Keartes, National Geographic, "How a humpback whale ended up with a sea lion in its mouth," 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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Last Updated

11 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Baleen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with baleen Encyclopedia article about baleen

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