from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Any of various marine toothed whales of the genus Phocoena and related genera, characteristically having a blunt snout and a triangular dorsal fin. Porpoises are placed either in their own family, Phocoenidae, or with the dolphins in the family Delphinidae.
  • noun Any of several related aquatic mammals, such as the dolphins.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 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 the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Zoöl.) 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.
  • noun (Zoöl.) A true dolphin (Delphinus); -- often so called by sailors.
  • noun (Zoöl.) a North American porpoise (Lagenorhynchus acutus), larger than the common species, and with broad stripes of white and yellow on the sides. See Illustration in Appendix.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A small cetacean of the family Phocoenidae, related to whales and dolphins.
  • noun North America, imprecisely Any small dolphin.
  • verb intransitive Said of an aircraft: to make a series of plunges when taking off or landing.

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

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


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

[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).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.


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  • Many people are of opinion that the porpoise is a variety of the dolphin.

    The History of Animals 2002

  • A porpoise is a vertical oscillation where you are just a step behind the aircraft and can't physically keep up with the machine; each control movement only serves to exaggerate the problem.

    Thud Ridge Broughton, Jack, 1925- 1969

  • "This," exclaimed he, "if I mistake not, augurs well; the porpoise is a fat, well-conditioned fish, a burgomaster among fishes; his looks betoken ease, plenty, and prosperity; I greatly admire this round fat fish, and doubt not but this is a happy omen of the success of our undertaking."

    Journeys Through Bookland, Vol. 8 Charles Herbert Sylvester

  • The porpoise is a fish five or six feet in length, weighing from one hundred and fifty to three hundred pounds.

    Jack in the Forecastle or, Incidents in the Early Life of Hawser Martingale John Sherburne Sleeper

  • The porpoise is the true dolphin, the sailor's dolphin being a fish with vertical tail, scales and gills.

    Ranching, Sport and Travel Thomas Carson

  • What Nairne calls a porpoise, is really the beluga, a small white whale.

    A Canadian Manor and Its Seigneurs The Story of a Hundred Years, 1761-1861 George M. Wrong

  • The dolphin is so uniformly miscalled porpoise, on the west coast and everywhere else, that the creature will soon come to think that it really is a porpoise.

    Dick in the Everglades A. W. Dimock

  • So-called porpoise leather is made of the skin of the white whale.

    Ranching, Sport and Travel Thomas Carson

  • Well, anyway, it's a porpoise, and a porpoise is a kind of shark, isn't it?

    Europe Revised 1910

  • The porpoise is the kitten of the sea; he never has a serious thought, he cares for nothing but fun and play.

    Following the Equator, Part 2 Mark Twain 1872


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

    November 10, 2007

  • "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

  • Outrageous.

    February 1, 2009