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whale1

[hweyl, weyl]
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noun, plural whales, (especially collectively) whale.
  1. any of the larger marine mammals of the order Cetacea, especially as distinguished from the smaller dolphins and porpoises, having a fishlike body, forelimbs modified into flippers, and a head that is horizontally flattened.
  2. Informal. something big, great, or fine of its kind: I had a whale of a time in Europe.
  3. (initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Cetus.
verb (used without object), whaled, whal·ing.
  1. to engage in whaling or whale fishing.

Origin of whale1

before 900; Middle English; Old English hwæl; cognate with German Wal- in Walfisch, Old Norse hvalr; perhaps akin to Latin squalus kind of fish
Can be confusedwail whale

whale2

[hweyl, weyl]
verb, whaled, whal·ing,
  1. to hit, thrash, or beat soundly.

Origin of whale2

First recorded in 1780–90; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for whale

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The history of Jonah and the whale, I read at least twenty times.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Of what being Progressive was she had no more notion than a whale.

    Alarms and Discursions

    G. K. Chesterton

  • Will you kindly allow us to join your party when you go to see the whale to-morrow?

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • "Very like a whale, if not like a codfish," said Miss Wayland, laughing heartily.

    The Green Satin Gown

    Laura E. Richards

  • At Zierikzee, in Zeeland, a whale has been stranded by a high tide and a gale of wind.

    Albert Durer

    T. Sturge Moore


British Dictionary definitions for whale

whale1

noun plural whales or whale
  1. any of the larger cetacean mammals, excluding dolphins, porpoises, and narwhals. They have flippers, a streamlined body, and a horizontally flattened tail and breathe through a blowhole on the top of the headRelated adjective: cetacean
  2. any cetacean mammalSee also toothed whale, whalebone whale
  3. slang a gambler who has the capacity to win and lose large sums of money in a casino
  4. a whale of a informal an exceptionally large, fine, etc, example of a (person or thing)we had a whale of a time on holiday

Word Origin

Old English hwæl; related to Old Saxon, Old High German hwal, Old Norse hvalr, Latin squalus seapig

whale2

verb
  1. (tr) to beat or thrash soundly

Word Origin

C18: variant of wale 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for whale

n.

Old English hwæl, from Proto-Germanic *khwalaz (cf. Old Saxon hwal, Old Norse hvalr, hvalfiskr, Swedish val, Middle Dutch wal, walvisc, Dutch walvis, Old High German wal, German Wal); probably cognate with Latin squalus "a kind of large sea fish." Phrase whale of a "excellent or large example" is c.1900, student slang.

v.

"beat, whip severely," 1790, possibly a variant of wale (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper