killer whale


: a relatively small toothed whale (Orcinus orca of the family Delphinidae) that is black above with white underparts and white oval-shaped patches behind the eyes, attains a length of 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters), typically hunts in groups, and preys chiefly on sea mammals (such as seals, sea lions, and other whales), large fish, and squid

called also orca

Examples of killer whale in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Rescuers have also reported that a group of killer whales that could include her relatives has been swimming near Vancouver Island. Andrew Jeong, Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2024 My colleague Lila Seidman wrote a fascinating piece about new research that argues there are distinct species of orcas, and about an odd story from more than a century ago: how a San Francisco whaler in 1869 described two species of killer whales, only to have his work cast aside. Ian James, Los Angeles Times, 4 Apr. 2024 All killer whales are currently categorized as a single species, but a new study may change that. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 Mar. 2024 The park no longer breeds killer whales but still has a healthy population of eight orcas. Lori Weisberg, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 Apr. 2024 The taxonomy committee of the Society of Marine Mammalogy will next determine whether to officially recognize resident killer whales and transient killer whales as new species, according to a statement from NOAA, likely at its next annual review this summer. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 Mar. 2024 Sixteen were severely emaciated and likely died of starvation; 11 died of blunt force trauma — although two of those whales were also extremely underweight; at least three bore fatal wounds from killer whales and two were tangled in fishing gear. Susanne Rust, Los Angeles Times, 27 Mar. 2024 The researchers gathered data on killer whales around the Monterey Submarine Canyon in California from 2006 to 2018 and from whale-watching tours there between 2014 and 2021. Paul Smaglik, Discover Magazine, 20 Mar. 2024 The other type of killer whales called transient killer whales specialize in hunting marine mammals. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 20 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'killer whale.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1884, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of killer whale was in 1884

Dictionary Entries Near killer whale

Cite this Entry

“Killer whale.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

killer whale

kill·​er whale
: a flesh-eating mostly black toothed whale 20 to 30 feet (about 6 to 9 meters) long that travels in groups

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