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

  • noun Any of various marine mammals of the order Cetacea; a cetacean.
  • noun Any of various larger members of this order, including the blue whale, humpback whale, and right whale, in contrast to the porpoises and dolphins.
  • noun Informal An impressive example.
  • intransitive verb To engage in the hunting of whales.
  • intransitive verb To strike or hit repeatedly and forcefully; thrash.
  • intransitive verb To strike or hit (a ball) with great force.
  • intransitive verb To strike or hit a person or thing repeatedly and forcefully.
  • intransitive verb To swing at a ball with great effort, especially repeatedly.
  • intransitive verb To attack vehemently.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To move with effort.
  • To lash with vigorous stripes; thrash or beat soundly.
  • To take whales; pursue the business of whale-fishing.
  • noun 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. , ,
  • noun See blackfish. 2, black-whale, and Globicephalus.
  • noun 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.
  • noun 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.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (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.
  • noun (Zoöl.), [Canada] The turnstone; -- so called because it lives on the carcasses of whales.
  • noun (Com.) whalebone.
  • noun the fishing for, or occupation of taking, whales.
  • noun (Zoöl.) any one of several species of degraded amphipod crustaceans belonging to the genus Cyamus, especially Cyamus ceti. They are parasitic on various cetaceans.
  • noun [Obs.] ivory.
  • noun (Zoöl.) A very large harmless shark (Rhinodon typicus) native of the Indian Ocean. It sometimes becomes sixty feet long.
  • noun the name formerly given to spermaceti.
  • noun (Zoöl.) a balanoglossus.

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

  • noun Any of several species of large sea mammals.
  • noun figuratively Something, or someone, that is very large.
  • noun gambling (In a casino) a person who routinely bets at the maximum limit allowable.
  • verb intransitive To hunt for whales.
  • verb transitive To flog, to beat.

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

  • noun a very large person; impressive in size or qualities
  • noun any of the larger cetacean mammals having a streamlined body and breathing through a blowhole on the head
  • verb hunt for whales


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

[Middle English, from Old English hwæl.]

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

[Origin unknown.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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")).


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  • I only like this word as a verb.

    January 7, 2007

  • "A heavy drinker." Seen here.

    June 3, 2009