orca

noun
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

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 At least one orca has been observed killing and eating an adult white shark at the Farallon Islands, back in 1997. Jason G. Goldman, Scientific American, "Orcas May Turn Great White Sharks into Scaredy Cats," 8 July 2019 The booze may improve your chances of spotting an otter or orca at sea. Jen Murphy, Condé Nast Traveler, "A Long Weekend on Whidbey Island, the Playground of the Pacific Northwest," 10 July 2019 The sharks' willingness to give up good feeding opportunities at the Farallon Islands suggests that going elsewhere is preferable to sticking around and facing the risk—however slight—of becoming an orca's next meal. Jason G. Goldman, Scientific American, "Orcas May Turn Great White Sharks into Scaredy Cats," 8 July 2019 Researchers eavesdropped on his hunt capturing not only his clicks, buzzes and calls, but his movements, and the sounds around him, revealing the underwater world of an orca on the hunt. The Seattle Times, "How our noise is hurting orcas’ search for salmon," 19 May 2019 Researchers were able to confirm the baby whale's gender when the orca popped to the surface with its underside exposed. Gabrielle Sorto, CNN, "A female baby orca has been born. This is good news since only 76 whales are left," 8 July 2019 Some orcas specialize in eating salmon and other fish; others prefer pinnipeds (a group that includes seals and walruses), and a third type feasts on sharks. Jason G. Goldman, Scientific American, "Orcas May Turn Great White Sharks into Scaredy Cats," 8 July 2019 The orca, straddling the division, symbolizes the city’s environmentalist history and links to both land and sea. Christine Clarridge, The Seattle Times, "Last month, we asked readers what Seattle’s city flag should look like. Here’s what you came up with.," 7 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.

See More

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about orca

Dictionary Entries near orca

orby

orc

ORC

orca

Orcadian

Orcagna

orcanette

Statistics for orca

Last Updated

11 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for orca

The first known use of orca was in 1726

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for orca

orca

noun
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

Comments on orca

What made you want to look up orca? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

marked by turns or indirection

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!