nar·​whal | \ ˈnär-ˌwäl How to pronounce narwhal (audio) , -ˌhwäl, -wəl\
variants: or less commonly narwhale \ ˈnär-​ˌwāl How to pronounce narwhale (audio) , -​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

After pressing on your narwhal, unicorn, elephant, or penguin, each slowly rises back to its original form for a soft and squishy good time. Megan Stein, Country Living, "If Your Kids Love Hatchimals They're Going to Freak Over This New Squeezamals Game," 9 Jan. 2019 To some, this is definitive proof that Bigfoot is as real as mountain gorillas or narwhals. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics, "Science Meets Legend: The Story of Our Search for Bigfoot," 8 Oct. 2018 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

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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Time Traveler for narwhal

The first known use of narwhal was in 1646

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More Definitions for narwhal


nar·​whal | \ ˈnär-ˌhwäl How to pronounce narwhal (audio) , -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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More from Merriam-Webster on narwhal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with narwhal

Spanish Central: Translation of narwhal

Nglish: Translation of narwhal for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about narwhal

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