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See more synonyms for baleen on Thesaurus.com
  1. whalebone(def 1).
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Origin of baleen

1275–1325; Middle English balene (< Anglo-French baleine, beleine) < Latin bal(l)ēna, variant of bal(l)aena whale < an unidentified language, also the source of Greek phál(l)aina whale; replacing Middle English balayn < Middle French balaine whale(bone) < Latin, as above
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for baleen

mammal, porpoise, whopper, cetacean, grampus, baleen, finback, beluga, rorqual, narwhal, orca, ceta, cete, orc, sei

Examples from the Web for baleen

Historical Examples of baleen

  • In these several respects they resemble the plates of baleen in the mouth of a whale.

    On the Origin of Species

    Charles Darwin

  • He has enormous teeth or tushes in the lower jaw, but has no baleen.

  • These are known as the baleen plates and form the whalebone of commerce.

  • (g) The baleen of whales also belongs to the epidermal exoskeleton.

    The Vertebrate Skeleton

    Sidney H. Reynolds

  • The Toothed Whales are not furnished with baleen, but with teeth only.

British Dictionary definitions for baleen


  1. whalebone
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Word Origin for baleen

C14: from Latin bālaena whale; related to Greek phalaina whale
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 baleen


early 14c., "whalebone," from Old French balaine (12c.) "whale, whalebone," from Latin ballaena, from Greek phallaina "whale" (apparently related to phallos "swollen penis," probably because of a whale's shape), from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, inflate, swell" (see bole). Klein writes that the Greek to Latin transition was "through the medium of the Illyrian language, a fact which explains the transition of Gk. -ph- into Latin -b- (instead of -p-)."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

baleen in Science


  1. A flexible horny substance hanging in fringed plates from the upper jaw of baleen whales. It is used to strain plankton from seawater when feeding. Also called whalebone
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.