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 King’s book explores the nature writing that illuminates Herman Melville’s classic novel, including information on white whales, whale intelligence, giant squid, albatrosses, sharks and American knowledge of the ocean in the mid-19th century. Carole Goldberg, courant.com, "Write Stuff: Artemis Fowl creator Eoin Colfer, travel author Patricia Schultz at Mark My Words," 30 Oct. 2019 Growing up in a small fishing village in France near the coast of Brittany, Julien Dossena, the 37-year-old creative director of Paco Rabanne, spent hours sketching speedboats, whales, medieval knights and sultry female superheroes. Lindsay Talbot, New York Times, "The Designer Updating Space-Age Cool for Today," 9 Oct. 2019 There’s winter whale watching in Banderas Bay, an artisan market with local goods, and, just a half-hour boat ride south, the quiet shores and waterfall hikes of Yelapa Beach. Valerie Marino, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Cities in the World: 2019 Readers' Choice Awards," 7 Oct. 2019 For Native people such as Akeya, who is Yup’ik, the ice also has shaped their culture, helping them to hunt the walruses, whales, seals and other marine life that have long formed a crucial part of their diet. Hal Bernton, The Seattle Times, "As Bering Sea ice melts, Alaskans, scientists and Seattle’s fishing fleet witness changes ‘on a massive scale’," 15 Sep. 2019 Antarctica is home to penguins, seals, visiting whales, gulls, krill, albatross and more. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, "These Charts Show How High Sea Levels Will Rise if Antarctica's Ice Continues to Melt," 12 Sep. 2019 All told, an estimated 5 trillion pieces of microplastics pollute our oceans, threatening the health of fish, whales, seabirds and countless marine species. Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards, The Mercury News, "Editorial: California should phase out use of plastics that aren’t recyclable," 10 Sep. 2019 The American folk hero instantly becomes a threat with shredded teeth like a whale, but sharp like a shark’s tooth. Joelle Monique, The Hollywood Reporter, "How 'It: Chapter Two' Leaves Richie Tozier Behind," 7 Sep. 2019 Local whalers had long discussed the whales, which have now been identified as a new species, according to experts from Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science and Hokkaido University. Fox News, "New species of whale discovered on the Japanese coast," 7 Sep. 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

19 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Whale.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whalelike?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=w&file=whalel01. Accessed 22 November 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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