noun, often attributive
\ ˈ(h)wāl How to pronounce whale (audio) \
plural whales

Definition of whale

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 or plural whale : any of various very large, aquatic, marine mammals (order Cetacea) that have a torpedo-shaped body with a thick layer of blubber, paddle-shaped forelimbs but no hind limbs, a horizontally flattened tail, and nostrils that open externally at the top of the head also : cetacean — see baleen whale, toothed whale
2 : one that is impressive especially in size a whale of a difference a whale of a good time


verb (1)
whaled; whaling

Definition of whale (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to engage in whale fishing


verb (2)
whaled; whaling

Definition of whale (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : lash, thrash
2 : to strike or hit vigorously
3 : to defeat soundly

Other Words from whale


whalelike \ ˈ(h)wāl-​ˌlīk How to pronounce whale (audio) \ adjective

Examples of whale in a Sentence

Noun a whale of a pickup truck
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun On the morning of July 24, a whale breached and landed on the bow of a small boat. Julia Musto, Fox News, 2 Aug. 2022 If the Padres successfully shove the chips in on a trade whale like Soto, the waves across baseball will feel like someone dropped a Fiat from a crane into the middle of the municipal pool. Bryce Millercolumnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 31 July 2022 During one leg of the journey, they were escorted by a whale. Nicole Kagan, Los Angeles Times, 28 July 2022 But Asmutis-Silvia cautioned that the size of even a small whale would be potential dangerous to boaters. CBS News, 26 July 2022 This morning, in the White Horse Beach area, a whale breached and landed on the bow of a small 19’ vessel. Globe Correspondent, BostonGlobe.com, 24 July 2022 These things walk across the level's floor while the wizard scoots back and forth, occasionally smashing the ground with a massive handheld whale. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, 30 June 2022 According to the book, the Inuit people risk it all while hunting because a single whale can provide a village with food and oil to last an entire year. Manish Gupta, Forbes, 17 June 2022 So when a baby whale washes up on the island, Noi tries to secretly care for it at home – an act that ends up bringing him close to his dad. K.j. Yossman, Variety, 15 June 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'whale.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of whale


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (1)

1700, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

circa 1790, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for whale


Middle English, from Old English hwæl; akin to Old High German hwal whale and perhaps to Latin squalus sea fish

Verb (2)

origin unknown

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Time Traveler for whale

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The first known use of whale was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near whale




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Statistics for whale

Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Whale.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whale. Accessed 7 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for whale


\ ˈhwāl How to pronounce whale (audio) , ˈwāl \

Kids Definition of whale

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a very large sea mammal that has flippers and a flattened tail and breathes through an opening on the top of the head


whaled; whaling

Kids Definition of whale (Entry 2 of 2)

: to hunt whales

More from Merriam-Webster on whale

Nglish: Translation of whale for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of whale for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about whale


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