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 The video also showed an Allen key, Abraham Lincoln, an orca whale and sliced bread. Dana Rose Falcone, PEOPLE.com, 3 Nov. 2021 Guests are certain to spot huge crowds of sea lions lounging along the shore of Lincoln Island as well as pods of humpbacks, while the truly fortunate may be able to catch a glimpse of an orca or two. Jared Ranahan, Forbes, 29 Oct. 2021 The new findings have drawn criticism among other scientists in the field and sparked a critique Thursday from a dozen orca researchers and nonprofits. Lynda V. Mapes, Anchorage Daily News, 18 Oct. 2021 The orca began showing signs of illness, prompting specialists to administer treatment. Justin Ray, Los Angeles Times, 24 Aug. 2021 But since the disappearance of great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) – which was initially attributed to the presence of two orcas (Orcinus orca) – many have wondered if the ongoing absence had something to do with us. Melissa Cristina Márquez, Forbes, 3 Sep. 2021 In 2016, SeaWorld announced the end of all of the parks' captive orca breeding programs. Kelli Bender, PEOPLE.com, 23 Aug. 2021 Scientists are still studying this predator-prey relationship but say there’s little evidence that orca attacks are increasing. Anchorage Daily News, 15 Aug. 2021 Scientists are still studying this predator-prey relationship but say there’s little evidence that orca attacks are increasing. Tribune News Service, oregonlive, 15 Aug. 2021

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

29 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Orca.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orca. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of orca


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

Kids Definition of orca

More from Merriam-Webster on orca

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about orca


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