sperm whale


: a very large toothed whale (Physeter macrocephalus synonym P. catodon) that has large conical teeth in the lower jaw, a single blowhole, and a massive squarish head with a closed cavity containing a fluid mixture of spermaceti and oil, and that may reach a length in the male of nearly 60 feet (18.3 meters)

Illustration of sperm whale

Illustration of sperm whale

Examples of sperm whale in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The world’s largest predators, sperm whales spend most of their lives hunting. Carolyn Wells, Longreads, 8 Sep. 2023 Two were found in New York, with a 31-foot-long humpback whale washing up in Amagansett, on Long Island, on Dec. 6, and a 30-foot-long sperm whale found on Rockaway Beach on Dec. 12. Li Cohen, CBS News, 20 Jan. 2023 The pavilion itself is watched over by the skeleton of a 40-foot sperm whale suspended from the ceiling, and a wall of windows look out over the bay. Jennifer Billock, Condé Nast Traveler, 19 Oct. 2023 The shrill sounds of the sperm whale are downright dangerous. Sam Walters, Discover Magazine, 17 Oct. 2023 Then the pilot whales made another run at the sperm whales. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 4 Sep. 2023 The epic battles between the colossal squid and the sperm whale show that when the sperm whale is ready for a meal, the squid isn’t always ready for the taking. Sara Novak, Discover Magazine, 3 July 2023 The silence of the sperm whales went unchallenged until 1957. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 4 Sep. 2023 Researchers caution that recent stormy weather has increased the likelihood of beachings — including of a sperm whale and three gray whales discovered since mid-January. oregonlive, 24 Jan. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sperm whale.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


short for spermaceti whale

First Known Use

circa 1700, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sperm whale was circa 1700

Dictionary Entries Near sperm whale

Cite this Entry

“Sperm whale.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sperm%20whale. Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition

sperm whale

: a large toothed whale with a large chamber in the skull that contains a fluid mixture of spermaceti and oil

More from Merriam-Webster on sperm whale

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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