Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of several gregarious toothed whales of the genus Phocaena and related genera, of oceanic waters, characteristically having a blunt snout and a triangular dorsal fin. Also called sea hog.
  • n. Any of several related aquatic mammals, such as the dolphin.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A small cetacean of the family Phocoenidae, related to whales and dolphins.
  • n. Any small dolphin.
  • v. Said of an aircraft: to make a series of plunges when taking off or landing.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Any small cetacean of the genus Phocæna, especially Phocæna communis, or Phocæna phocæna, of Europe, and the closely allied American species (Phocæna Americana). The color is dusky or blackish above, paler beneath. They are closely allied to the dolphins, but have a shorter snout. Called also harbor porpoise, herring hag, puffing pig, and snuffer.
  • n. A true dolphin (Delphinus); -- often so called by sailors.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A small toothed cetacean of the family Delphinidæ and subfamily Delphiminæ, and especially of the genus Phoeæna, of which there are several species, the best-known being P. communis, which attains a length of about 5 feet and has a blunt head not produced into a long beak, and a thick body tapering toward the tail.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. any of several small gregarious cetacean mammals having a blunt snout and many teeth

Etymologies

Middle English porpeis, from Old French (probably translation of a Germanic compound meaning sea-pig) : porc, pig (from Latin porcus; see porko- in Indo-European roots) + peis, fish (from Latin piscis).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English porpeys, purpeys, from Anglo-Norman porpeis, purpeis, Old French pourpois, pourpais, porpeis ("porpoise"), from Vulgar Latin *porcopiscis (“porpoise”, literally "pig-fish"), from Latin porcus ("pig") + piscis ("fish"). Compare (in transposed order) obsolete Italian pesce porco and Portuguese peixe porco; also Latin porcus marinus ("sea hog"), akin in formation to German Meerschwein, English mereswine. More at mereswine. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • Outrageous.

    February 1, 2009

  • "Before calling the police, this reporter went to check on the tip, skeptical of a hoax. Sure enough, in the well of the cargo elevator, two feet jutted out above the ice. Closer inspection revealed that the rest of the body was encased in 2-3 feet of ice, the body prostrate, suspended into the ice like a porpoising walrus. The hem of a beige jacket could be made out, as could the cuffs of blue jeans. The socks were relatively clean and white. The left shoe was worn at the heel but carried fresh laces. Adding to the macabre and incongruous scene was a pillow that gently propped up the left foot of the corpse. It looked almost peaceful."
    - Charlie LeDuff, Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse, The Detroit News, 28 Jan 2009.

    January 31, 2009

  • Important areas of the porpoise used for communication are the monkey lips and the melon.

    November 10, 2007