whale

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

whale

verb (1)
whaled; whaling

Definition of whale (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to engage in whale fishing

whale

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from whale

Noun

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

The whales were almost hunted to extinction in the 1920s, but were able to rebound after whaling of North Atlantic right whales was banned in 1935. Kelli Bender, PEOPLE.com, "Ninth North Atlantic Right Whale Found Dead This Year, Strengthening Extinction Concerns," 17 Sep. 2019 Onlookers tried to push the whale away from the beach, the aquarium statement said. Amanda Jackson, CNN, "A whale washed ashore in Maryland and citizens attempted to push it back into the water," 15 Sep. 2019 There are all sorts of boat tours that leave from Auke Bay to go see the whales that feed nearby. Scott Mcmurren, Anchorage Daily News, "Isn’t it about time you took a trip to Southeast Alaska?," 14 Sep. 2019 The aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Team responded and determined the whale had likely died within the past couple of days, but because it had been significantly scavenged by sharks, a full necropsy could not be completed. USA TODAY, "Disney surprise, foreign feral hogs, porous pavement: News from around our 50 states," 13 Sep. 2019 Humpback whales began feeding much closer to the coast, affording people amazing views of the animals — but also putting the whales in greater danger of collisions with ships. Paul Rogers, The Mercury News, "The ‘Blob’ is back: New marine heat wave emerges off West Coast," 5 Sep. 2019 Onlookers gave off excited screams as the great white emerged and chomped on the whale. Fox News, "Great white shark spotted off Massachusetts coast feeding on dead whale carcass," 3 Sep. 2019 The remaining six whales were refloated to the ocean but stranded again, Schofield said. NBC News, "5 whales dead after mass stranding on Maui beach," 30 Aug. 2019 Besides, in a few more weeks, the currents will change, coming down cold from the Gulf of Alaska with the migrating whales. Los Angeles Times, "‘Burning Man in the South Bay’: A crazy beach party aglow with bonfires and tradition," 29 Aug. 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.

See More

First Known Use of whale

Noun

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

Noun

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

Verb (2)

origin unknown

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about whale

Statistics for whale

Last Updated

8 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for whale

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for whale

whale

noun

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.

whale

noun
\ 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

whale

verb
whaled; whaling

Kids Definition of whale (Entry 2 of 2)

: to hunt whales

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on whale

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with whale

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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

Comments on whale

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to be made up of

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

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!