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 Kiska, a young female orca, was captured in 1978 off the Iceland coast and taken to Marineland Canada, an aquarium and amusement park. Bob Jacobs, The Conversation, "The neural cruelty of captivity: Keeping large mammals in zoos and aquariums damages their brains," 24 Sep. 2020 Centuries ago, geoglyphs of a hummingbird, a monkey, an orca, and a human-like figure were etched into the ground, and now a new figure has revealed itself: an enormous cat lying across the hillside. Jessica Poitevien, Travel + Leisure, "An Ancient Image of an Enormous Lounging Cat Has Been Discovered in a Peruvian Desert," 20 Oct. 2020 Other images like that of a hummingbird, a monkey and an orca have also been unearthed at The Nazca Lines site. N'dea Yancey-bragg, USA TODAY, "Archaeologists find huge 2,000-year-old cat image carved into Peru hillside," 19 Oct. 2020 Images of a hummingbird, a monkey and an orca were unearthed at the site. New York Times, "2,000-Year-Old Cat Etching Found at Nazca Lines Site in Peru," 19 Oct. 2020 The pod that spends time in the Puget Sound, the Seattle Times reports, appears to be doing well this year, with another baby orca born the other day, the second this month. Mark Olalde, USA TODAY, "Climate Point: Trump can't recall his environmental stance in debate," 1 Oct. 2020 The Center for Whale Research said the endangered orca whale, named Tahlequah, was spotted in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca in U.S. waters between Washington state and Vancouver Island with her new calf. Fox News, "Orca who carried dead calf for 17 days in 'tour of grief' gives birth again," 7 Sep. 2020 Scientists admit they are baffled by a rise in aggressive orca activity, with the whales ramming boats along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts, according to reports by the Guardian. Peter Aitken, Fox News, "Scientists left baffled by reports of orca 'attacks,' call reports 'highly unusual'," 14 Sep. 2020 Mother orca Tahlequah, J35, has given birth to a calf. CBS News, "Killer whale who carried her dead calf for 17 days and 1,000 miles is a mother again," 7 Sep. 2020

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

16 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Orca.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orca. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for orca


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

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about orca

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