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

  • n. A steamship with the bow and upper deck rounded so as to shed water.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A form of vessel, often with steam power, having sharp ends and a very convex upper deck, much used on the Great Lakes, esp. for carrying grain.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Having an arched or curved deck continuous with the side: said of a particular type of steamer. See whaleback, n., 2.
  • n. A vessel of which the upper deck is rounded: generally without upper works. It has a spoon-bow, with the whole of the main deck arched and meeting the side in a continuous curve. There are a number of very large hatches in the crown of the deck. The propelling machinery is in the extreme after end of the vessel. Such vessels were first used on the Great Lakes.
  • n. In physical geography, a drift-hill of rounded profile thought to resemble the back of a whale rising above the sea.
  • n. Same as turtleback.
  • n. A vessel of which the upper deck is rounded: generally without upper works. Such vessels were first used on the great lakes.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • He was a famous 'whaleback' -- I think that's what they call it -- on the Yale football team.

    Out of the Ashes

  • "whaleback" from Yale, recognized the visitor at the Denning box, and, with an untranslatable grunt, abruptly took his departure, leaving his sister to wonder over the strangeness of his actions.

    Out of the Ashes

  • Then we laid two lengths of the stout canvas the full length of the boat over the whaleback, overlapping and nailing them to the same, so that they sloped away down over the gunnels upon each side as though they had formed a roof to us.

    The Boats of the 'Glen Carrig'

  • Then, in each boat, we mounted the whaleback — which had been stowed along the tops of the thwarts — also its supports, lashing the same to the thwarts below the knees.

    The Boats of the 'Glen Carrig'

  • I looked down at the main deck and just aft of the whaleback five deck hands were working fast, coiling a green mass of rope and stashing it forward in the forepeak.

    The Whale Warriors

  • He explained that the flange of curved steel extending back from the bow and partially sheltering the front of the main deck was called the wavebreaker or whaleback.

    The Whale Warriors

  • He watched the bow gash into the trough and take a wave over the rounded whaleback.

    The Whale Warriors

  • "The great whaleback of Vimy Ridge angled off into the gloom - it's hump as high as a fifty-storey building - a miniature Gibraltar, honeycombed with German tunnels and dugouts, a labyrnth of steel and concrete fortifications, bristling with guns of every calibre".

    Vimy Remembered and Rededicated

  • "There goes our whaleback ride to catch your buddy Croaker."

    The Silver Spike

  • Channel in a choppy sea that ran streaks of foam; the grim turret and the long whaleback of a U-boat in the foam scruff; and the sun lying on the scrubbed deck of the jumping transport.

    The Sleuth of St. James's Square


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  • "The Andrea Gail, in the language, is a raked-stem, hard-chined western-rig swordfisherman. That means her bow has a lot of angle to it, she has a nearly square cross section, and her pilothouse is up front rather than in the stern, atop an elevated deck called a whaleback."

    —Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm, 1997 (NY: HarperCollins, 1999), 29

    August 17, 2009