American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. The elastic, horny material forming the fringed plates that hang from the upper jaw of baleen whales and strain plankton from the water. Also called baleen.
- n. An object made of this material.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. The elastic horny substance which grows in place of teeth in the upper jaw of whales of the family Balænidæ (hence called whalebone or bone whales), forming a series of thin parallel plates from a few inches to several feet long; baleen (which see). The term is misleading, for the substance is in no sense bone, but a kind of horn; and its trade-name whale-fin is equally inaccurate, for it has nothing to do with the fins of the whale. Whalebone grows in several hundred close-set parallel plates along each side of the upper jaw of the baleen whale, and thus in the situation occupied by the teeth of ordinary mammals; it is entirely shut, in by the lips when the mouth is closed. Each one of the plates of both rows then bends with a strong sweep back. ward, and when the mouth is opened straightens out, so that there is always a heavy fringe on each side of the cavity of the mouth, forming an impassable barrier to the multitudinous small creatures which the whale scoops in from the surface of the sea. The longest baleen plates are those of the polar whale, some of which may exceed 12 feet in length. The plates in different species differ in color from a dull grayish-black through various streaked or veined colorations to somewhat creamy white. Whalebone stands quite alone among animal substances in a particular combination of lightness, toughness, flexibility, elasticity, and durability, together with such a cleavage (due to the straightness of its parallel fibers) that it may be split for its whole length to any desired thinness of strips. A sulphur-bottom whale has yielded 800 pounds of baleen, of which the longest plates were 4 feet in length. In the California gray whale the longest bone is from 14 to 16 inches, of a light or whitish color, coarse-grained, and heavily and unevenly fringed. The baleen of a finback is of a light lead-color streaked with black, attaining a length of 2 feet 4 inches and a width of from 12 to 14 inches, with a fine fringe from 2 to 4 inches long; it is somewhat ridged crosswise. That of the sharp-headed finner is entirely white, with a short thin fringe; it has been found to consist of 270 pairs of plates, the longest, being 10 inches in length. Whalebone is or has been used in the manufacture of a great variety of articles.
- n. Something made of whalebone or baleen; a piece of whalebone prepared for some regular use: as, the whalebones of a corset.
- n. Specifically. a whalebone riding-whip.
- n. In the middle ages, ivory from the narwhal, walrus, or other sea-creature, or supposed to be from such a source. See whale's bone, under whale, n.
- Made of or containing whalebone.
- n. The horny material from the fringed plates of the upper jaw of baleen whales that are used to filter plankton; once used as stays in corsets
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. A firm, elastic substance resembling horn, taken from the upper jaw of the right whale; baleen. It is used as a stiffening in stays, fans, screens, and for various other purposes. See baleen.
- n. a horny material from the upper jaws of certain whales; used as the ribs of fans or as stays in corsets
“The substance which we call whalebone is not true bone.”
“It yields the article commonly known as whalebone or baleen; and the oil specially known as “whale oil,” an inferior article in commerce.”
“In the seam of one of the remaining divisions is inclosed a piece of whalebone, which is drawn over the head, and forms a perfect arch, leaving the head and neck bare.”
“In place of teeth it has the well-known substance called whalebone, which grows from the roof of its mouth in a number of broad thin plates, extending from the back of the head to the snout.”
“It yields the article commonly known as whalebone or baleen; and the oil specially known as "whale oil," an inferior article in commerce.”
“It yields the article commonly known as whalebone or baleen; and the oil specially known as 'whale oil', an inferior article in commerce.”
“baleen" or "whalebone" -- each plank being as much as eight or in rare cases twelve feet long.”
“The whalebone whale, again, has horny "whalebone" plates in its mouth, and no teeth; but the young foetal whale before it is born has teeth in its jaws; they, however, are never used, and they never come to anything.”
“The whalebone whale, again, has horny "whalebone" plates in its mouth, and no teeth; but the young foetal whale, before it is born, has teeth in its jaws; they, however, are never used, and they never come to anything.”
“If what one cares about is spoken English, then, the language surely “began” before it was written down, or rather inscribed on whalebone, as it was in the mid-seventh century.”
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A list from the 1911 edition of "Words: Their Spelling, Pronunciation, Definition, Application" by the Gregg Publishing Company.
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