Definitions

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

  • n. Any of several whales of the family Balaenidae, characterized by a large head, whalebone plates in the mouth, and absence of a dorsal fin.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The baleen whales belonging to the family Balaenidae, in the genera Eubalaena (three species) and Balaena (one species, the bowhead whale, also called the Greenland right whale).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • The bowhead, Arctic, or Greenland whale (Balæna mysticetus), from whose mouth the best whalebone is obtained.
  • Any other whale that produces valuable whalebone, as the Atlantic, or Biscay, right whale (Balæna cisarctica), and the Pacific right whale (Balæna Sieboldii); a bone whale.

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

  • n. large Arctic whalebone whale; allegedly the `right' whale to hunt because of its valuable whalebone and oil

Etymologies

Because it was the "right” whale to kill.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From the opinion of whalers that balaenid whales were the "right" (i.e. correct) whales to target because their carcases were easier to collect. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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