or·​ca | \ ˈȯr-kə How to pronounce orca (audio) \
plural orcas or orca

Definition of orca

: 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 : killer whale Orcas are … the most agile and streamlined of the cetaceans. Found throughout the world, they are intelligent, social, and matriarchal.— Marguerite Holloway At the end of the food chain sustained by the krill is the orca … a spectacular animal patterned in black and white, that hunts in groups of up to thirty or forty, feeding on penguins, porpoises and seals.— John Vandenbeld There they were, wild orcas. Adrenaline rushed through my body, but I clung to the dock. I knew nothing of these waters or this northern wilderness.— Alexandra Morton … nowhere in the world are orca easier to see than on Puget Sound, where new whale-watching cruises bring you close to one of the few resident populations.Sunset

Examples of orca in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Last summer, international attention was focused on a female orca, J35. Julia Duin, Washington Post, "Baby orcas, new law provide small hope for future of nearly extinct mammals," 26 Aug. 2019 Sequoyah, the Cherokee scholar, appeared, and a leaping orca, and an air-traffic controller. Brooke Jarvis, The New Yorker, "Who Speaks for Crazy Horse?," 16 Sep. 2019 Denisenko, Lisitsyn, and others are particularly concerned about one young orca named Kirill, who had been acting very lethargically and exhibited extensive skin lesions. National Geographic, "Time running out for orcas, belugas trapped in icy 'whale jail'," 8 Apr. 2019 As the boat neared, the killer whales surfaced adjacent to the boat and Biertuempfel was able to capture a water-droplet sharp photograph of three orcas emerging in tandem. Tom Stienstra, SFChronicle.com, "Humpbacks, killer whales, fin whales star in coastal spectacle," 28 Aug. 2019 The same population of whales made headlines last year, when a mother orca named Tahlequah carried her deceased baby for more than two weeks in a remarkable display of grief. Helen Murphy, PEOPLE.com, "Southern Resident Killer Whale Population Drops to 73 as 3 Orcas Are Presumed Dead," 7 Aug. 2019 In the film, a boy determines to help Willy, a captive orca (played by Keiko, a whale housed at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport for a few years). oregonlive.com, "The Historic Oregon Film Trail celebrates scenery, history, movies like ‘The Goonies,’ ‘Stand By Me,’ and more," 25 July 2019 Unlike the orca shows, which long ago banished trainers from interacting with the killer whales in the water, the dolphin presentations, known as Dolphin Days, have no such prohibition. Sam Hodgson/the San Diego Union-tribune, San Diego Union-Tribune, "PETA’s latest demand: End ‘circus-style’ dolphin shows at SeaWorld," 5 June 2019 Rodeo belongs in the dustbin of history, along with Ringling Bros. Circus, SeaWorld’s banned orca shows, and greyhound racing (outlawed in Florida in a 2018 ballot initiative). Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, "Letter: Rodeo needs to go the way of orca shows and dog racing," 17 July 2019

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

1726, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for orca

borrowed from New Latin, a genus name, earlier a specific epithet (Delphinus orca, Linnaeus), going back to Latin, "a marine mammal, probably Risso's dolphin," borrowed (perhaps via Etruscan) from Greek oryg-, óryx "kind of marine mammal" — more at oryx

Note: The Roman grammarian Sextus Pompeius Festus assumed that the form of the Latin word reflected a different word orca, "kind of narrow-necked earthenware vessel," from the animal's supposed resemblance to the vase.

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Last Updated

7 Oct 2019

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Time Traveler for orca

The first known use of orca was in 1726

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or·​ca | \ ˈȯr-kə How to pronounce orca (audio) \

Kids Definition of orca

More from Merriam-Webster on orca

Spanish Central: Translation of orca

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about orca

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to wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

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