noun, often attributive
\ ˈhwāl How to pronounce whale (audio) , ˈwāl \
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

2 : to strike or hit vigorously
3 : to defeat soundly

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Other Words from whale


whalelike \ ˈhwāl-​ˌlīk How to pronounce whalelike (audio) , ˈwāl-​ \ adjective

Examples of whale in a Sentence

Noun a whale of a pickup truck
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun According to the Times of London, the man wielding the whale tusk was a chef from Poland, who works at Fishmongers’ Hall. Washington Post, "London Bridge attacker had previous terrorism conviction, police say," 30 Nov. 2019 But the much colder freezers do not impart the taste of aged whale meat so favored throughout the region. Author: Rachel D'oro, Anchorage Daily News, "Failing permafrost cellars signal change in Alaska whaling towns," 26 Nov. 2019 At sea: From Pico Island, Futurismo employs former whale hunters to help spot the creatures. Trish Lorenz, Condé Nast Traveler, "How to Explore the Azores, Island by Island," 19 Nov. 2019 Best of all, the premises feature a Roman-style tepidarium, a Finnish sauna, a Byzantine hammam, and a womb-like thermal pool scored by the sounds of dolphin and whale song. Jennifer Fernandez, Town & Country, "The 10 Luxury Wellness Escapes You’ll Want to Book for 2020," 5 Nov. 2019 Monty Hawkins heard the initial call and provided a whale rescue blade that allowed the crew to free the animal. baltimoresun.com, "Trapped whale rescued off shore of Maryland," 29 Oct. 2019 The new whale protections must first go through a rulemaking process. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Tension thaws over whale plan between lobstermen, feds," 20 Oct. 2019 The vessel, which is operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, found the whale carcass at a depth of 10,500 feet in the Pacific, according to Earther. Fox News, "Deep-sea creatures devour whale carcass, photos and video reveal," 18 Oct. 2019 He's been spotted a handful of times in the Salish Sea by local whale watchers and cropped up again this weekend, Island Adventures Whale Watching lead naturalist Erin Gless told CNN. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "A rare white orca calf was spotted off the Washington coast, delighting whale watchers and researchers alike," 14 Oct. 2019

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.

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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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for whale

Last Updated

3 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Whale.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whale?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=w&file=whale001. Accessed 7 December 2019.

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More Definitions for whale


How to pronounce whale (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of whale

: an often very large animal that lives in the ocean and that is a mammal rather than a fish
informal : something that is very big, important, good, etc.


\ 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on whale

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for whale

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with whale

Spanish Central: Translation of 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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