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 Most concerning, and the clearest sign of her dire fate, was that she was covered in orange cyamids, or whale lice. David Abel, BostonGlobe.com, 30 Sep. 2022 The province’s capital has a vibrant cultural scene, fine-dining and easy access to a number of outdoor activities, like golfing, skiing and whale watching. Bryan Hood, Robb Report, 23 Sep. 2022 When things don’t go as planned, the delicate relationship between whale and man is put to the test. Ed Meza, Variety, 21 Sep. 2022 The officer then proposes using the sun's power to time travel back to 1986 in order to bring an actual whale into the future, halting the alien's signal and returning the galaxy to rights. Sezin Koehler, EW.com, 16 Sep. 2022 Vaguely whale-sounding calls add to the underwater ambiance. Jessie Yeung, CNN, 12 Sep. 2022 An artist's reconstruction of Otodus megalodon preying on a species of whale in the Pliocene Period. Carlos R. Muñoz, BostonGlobe.com, 8 Sep. 2022 Vessels off the East Coast must slow down more often to help save a vanishing species of whale from extinction, the federal government said Friday. Fox News, 29 July 2022 The federal government hasn’t done enough to protect a rare species of whale from lethal entanglement in lobster fishing gear, and new rules are needed to protect the species from extinction, a judge has ruled. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 11 July 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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Statistics for whale

Last Updated

6 Oct 2022

Cite this Entry

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