American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. Any of various marine mammals of the order Cetacea, having the general shape of a fish with forelimbs modified to form flippers, a tail with horizontal flukes, and one or two blowholes for breathing, especially one of the very large species as distinguished from the smaller dolphins and porpoises.
- n. Informal An impressive example: a whale of a story.
- v. To engage in the hunting of whales.
- v. To strike or hit repeatedly and forcefully; thrash.
- v. To attack vehemently: The poet whaled away at the critics.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- To move with effort.
- n. Any member of the mammalian order Cetacea or Cete (which see); an ordinary cetacean, as distinguished from a sirenian, or so-called herbivorous cetacean; a marine mammal of fish-like form and habit, with fore limbs in the form of fin-like flippers, without external trace of hind limbs, and with a naked body tapering to a tail with flukes which are like a fish's caudal fin, but are horizontal instead of vertical; especially, a cetacean of large to the largest size, the small ones being distinctively named dolphins, porpoises, etc.: in popular use applied to any large marine animal. , , Whale is not less strictly applicable than universally applied to the toothless or whalebone whales, all of which are of great size, and some of which are by far the largest of animals. They consist of the right whales, flnner-whales, and humpbacks, composing the family Balænidæ alone, and represent live well-marked genera, namely:
- n. See blackfish. 2, black-whale, and Globicephalus.
- n. B. mysticetus is of circumpolar distribution in the northern hemisphere. It attains a length of from 40 to 50 feet, has no dorsal fin, flippers of medium size, and very long narrow flukes, tapering to a point and somewhat falcate. The greatest girth is about the middle, whence the body tapers rapidly to the comparatively slender root of the tail. The throat is smooth; the head is of great size; and the eye is situated very low down and far back, between the base of the flipper and the corner of the mouth. The profile of the mouth is strongly arched, and its capacity is enormous, exceeding that of the thorax and abdomen together. This cavern is fringed on each side with baleen hanging from the upper jaw; the plates are 350 to 400 on each side, the longest attaining a length of 10 or 12 feet; they are black in color, and finely frayed out along the inner edge into a fringe of long elastic filaments. When the jaws are closed, the baleen serves as a sieve to strain out the multitudes of small mollusks or crustaceans upon which the whale feeds, and which are gulped in with many barrels of water in the act of grazing the surface with open mouth. About 300 of the slabs on each side are merchantable, representing 15 hundredweight of bone from a whale of average size, which yields also 15 tons of oil; but some large individuals render nearly twice as much of both these products.
- n. The southern right whale, B. australis, differs from the polar whale in its proportionately shorter and smaller head, greater convexity of the arch of the mouth, shorter baleen, and more numerous vertebræ. ft inhabits both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in temperate latitudes, and in the former waters was the object of a fishery during the middle ages for the European supply of oil and bone. This industry gave way to the pursuit of the polar whale about the beginning of the seventeenth century. This whale has long been rare in the North Atlantic, but has occasionally stranded on the European coast, and more frequently on that of the United States. A similar if not identical right whale is hunted in temperate North Pacific waters. Right whales are rare and not pursued in tropical seas, but are objects of the chase in various parts of the south temperate ocean. See cuts above, and under Balænidæ.
- To take whales; pursue the business of whale-fishing.
- To lash with vigorous stripes; thrash or beat soundly.
- n. Any of several species of large sea mammals.
- n. figuratively Something, or someone, that is very large.
- n. gambling (In a casino) a person who routinely bets at the maximum limit allowable.
- v. intransitive To hunt for whales.
- v. transitive To flog, to beat.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Zoöl.) Any aquatic mammal of the order Cetacea, especially any one of the large species, some of which become nearly one hundred feet long. Whales are hunted chiefly for their oil and baleen, or whalebone.
- n. a very large person; impressive in size or qualities
- n. any of the larger cetacean mammals having a streamlined body and breathing through a blowhole on the head
- v. hunt for whales
- Middle English, from Old English hwæl, from Proto-Germanic *hwalaz (compare German Wal, Danish hval), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)kʷálos 'sheatfish' (compare German Wels, Latin squalus ("big sea fish"), Old Prussian kalis, Ancient Greek ἄσπαλος (áspalos), Avestan ... (kara, "kind of fish")). (Wiktionary)
- Middle English, from Old English hwæl.Origin unknown. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“We can refer meaningfully to whales, to the creatures picked out by the term whale (the name for the kind), without knowing the essential features of whales, features likely to involve subtle biological details.”
“Actually touching a whale is the big aim for all the tourists and they seem to spend many hours trying to do just that.”
“HALL: We had flown into an L.Z. just south of what you call the whale and we had moved into an area after we got off the helicopter, we started receiving fire.”
“She was what they call a whale-boat, fitted for the whale-fishery, pointed at both ends, and steered by an oar; she was not very large, but held seven people comfortably, and she was remarkably well fitted with sails and masts, having two lugs and a mizen.”
“She was what they call a whale-boat, fitted for the whale fishery, pointed at both ends, and steered by an oar; she was not very large, but held seven people comfortably, and she was remarkably well fitted with sails and masts, having two lugs and a mizen.”
“But when you are determined to gain the confidence, you still need to know in detail how large companies buy and how you should prepare for what we call a whale hunt.”
“I think Abrams’ use of the term whale isn’t literal.”
“He concludes by predicting that “the whale is not coming back for a long time, if ever.””
“The sperm whale is 1 of 6 Gulf whales listed as endangered.”
“Bob Neyland's white whale is the Bonhomme Richard.”
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