white whale

noun

Definition of white whale

2 or less commonly great white whale : something (such as a goal or object) that is obsessively pursued It was the old man's white whale, the holy grail shining at the end of the dream, on and off the rails, as he chased scripts, directors, and movie stars of the proper magnitude.— Rich Cohen For drug makers, developing the first Alzheimer's therapy has long been seen as the great white whale: the toughest challenge and biggest opportunity.— Robert Weisman

Illustration of white whale

Illustration of white whale

white whale 1

Examples of white whale in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The rum has been selling well, but even now Thrasher feels the wake of the great white whale. Washington Post, 22 June 2021 This includes the international bourbon drinker’s white whale: Old Rip Van Winkle 25-year-old, also known as Pappy 25. Ben Crandell, sun-sentinel.com, 5 June 2021 Attracting younger viewers has long been the white whale of the cable news industry, said Mark Lukasiewicz, a former NBC News executive who now serves as dean of the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University. Washington Post, 24 May 2021 Stewart’s white whale had been captured in Labrador, Canada. Jeff Suess, The Enquirer, 25 Apr. 2021 Or maybe chase your own white whale, like my Antonov An-225. Eric Adams, Popular Mechanics, 11 Apr. 2021 But coronavirus vaccines are South America’s white whale: often discussed, but rarely seen. Washington Post, 5 Apr. 2021 That experience provides a cautionary tale of how even nimble and well-capitalized corporate juggernauts can be shipwrecked by American healthcare’s white whale. Katie Jennings, Forbes, 18 Mar. 2021 Stevens, a Zionsville native son of a former IU football player who took Butler to back-to-back national title games, is many Indiana fans’ white whale. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, 15 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'white 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 white whale

1635, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for white whale

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The first known use of white whale was in 1635

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Statistics for white whale

Last Updated

25 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“White whale.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/white%20whale. Accessed 25 Jul. 2021.

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about white whale

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