nar·​whal | \ˈnär-ˌwäl, -ˌhwäl, -wəl\
variants: or less commonly narwhale \ ˈnär-​ˌwāl , -​ˌhwāl \

Definition of narwhal 

: an arctic cetacean (Monodon monoceros) that reaches a length of about 16 feet (5 meters) and possesses in the male one or rarely two long, spirally twisted, pointed tusks

Note: Although the narwhal is classified as a toothed whale (suborder Odontoceti), it does not possess any teeth in its mouth.

Illustration of narwhal

Illustration of narwhal

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Did You Know?

The narwhal is a [toothed whale](/dictionary/toothed whale) found throughout arctic waters. Its Latin binomial, Monodon monoceros, is derived from the Greek words for "single-toothed" and "single-horned." Its English name (also sometimes spelled narwhale) comes from the Norwegian and Danish narvhal and the Swedish narval, words which are probably a modification of the Icelandic nárhvalur, which comes from the Old Norse nāhvalr. In Old Norse hvalr means "whale" and is akin to the Old English hwæl, the ancestor of the Modern English whale. The first element of nāhvalr is believed to be nār, the Old Norse word for "corpse," from the resemblance of the animal's color to that of a human corpse.

Examples of narwhal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The Acousonde device, however, attaches to a ridge on the narwhals back via a magnesium link. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Researchers Record the Sounds of the Elusive Narwhal," 15 June 2018 Strangely, the narwhal, a deep-diving Arctic whale known for its unicorn-like tooth, fall into neither of these categories. National Geographic, "Why Humpback Whale Babies Whisper to Mom," 8 June 2018 In his way, of course, Nemo is a narwhal, a stature that Bandealy embraces with a real glee. Chris Jones,, "A real Lookingglass summer adventure in '20,000 Leagues Under the Seas'," 4 June 2018 Students in Lustig's third-, fourth, fifth and sixth grade art classes have spent the past month crafting beluga whales, arctic foxes and narwhals out of paper clay, a substance fashioned from shredded paper and papier mache paste. Amy Schwabe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Take your family on a holiday stroll through the fantastic forest at the Milwaukee County Zoo," 30 Nov. 2017 When her colleague, Kristin Laidre, traveled to West Greenland in 2007 to study narwhals, Stafford asked her to record the marine mammals' songs. National Geographic, "These Mysterious Whales Are the Jazz Musicians Of the Sea," 3 Apr. 2018 In the Arctic, mercury can also accumulate in the bodies of major mammal predators, such as polar bears or narwhal, a phenomenon that has been documented. Chris Mooney, Anchorage Daily News, "The Arctic is full of toxic mercury, and climate change is going to release it," 6 Feb. 2018 An exhibition exploring the mysterious narwhal in depth will open at Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History on August 3, 2017. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "New Drone Footage Shows One Way Narwhals Use Their Tusks," 16 May 2017 One on-ship conservation expert praised the company for steering clear of an area known to be home to narwhals, out of respect for local First Nations communities. Carolyn Beeler, USA TODAY, "Climate change brings melting ice, and cruise passengers, to Canada," 20 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'narwhal.' 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 narwhal

1646, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for narwhal

Norwegian & Danish narhval & Swedish narval, probably modification of Icelandic nárhvalur, from Old Norse nāhvalr, from nār corpse + hvalr whale; from its color

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The first known use of narwhal was in 1646

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More Definitions for narwhal


nar·​whal | \ˈnär-ˌhwäl, -ˌwäl\

Kids Definition of narwhal

: an arctic marine animal that is related to dolphins and whales and in the male has a long twisted ivory tusk

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