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narwhal

[nahr-wuh l]
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noun
  1. a small arctic whale, Monodon monoceros, the male of which has a long, spirally twisted tusk extending forward from the upper jaw.
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Also nar·wal, nar·whale [nahr-hweyl, -weyl] /ˈnɑrˌʰweɪl, -ˌweɪl/.

Origin of narwhal

1650–60; < Scandinavian; compare Norwegian, Swedish, Danish nar(h)val, reshaped from Old Norse nāhvalr, equivalent to nār corpse + hvalr whale1; allegedly so called because its skin resembles that of a human corpse
Related formsnar·whal·i·an [nahr-hwey-lee-uh n, -wey-, -wol-ee-] /nɑrˈʰweɪ li ən, -ˈweɪ-, -ˈwɒl i-/, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for narwhal

Historical Examples

  • Why the narwhal's tooth does not conform to this rule is a mystery.

    More Science From an Easy Chair

    Sir E. Ray (Edwin Ray) Lankester

  • The top of this totem is an exact replica of our narwhal horn.

  • In the 'tween-decks of the Narwhal, Buck and Curly joined two other dogs.

  • And—I think I may say I have the finest collection of narwhal tusks in the world.

    Actions and Reactions

    Rudyard Kipling

  • You know the unicorn is always represented with a narwhal's tusk?


British Dictionary definitions for narwhal

narwhal

narwal narwhale (ˈnɑːˌweɪl)

noun
  1. an arctic toothed whale, Monodon monoceros, having a black-spotted whitish skin and, in the male, a long spiral tusk: family Monodontidae
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Word Origin

C17: of Scandinavian origin; compare Danish, Norwegian narhval, from Old Norse nāhvalr, from nār corpse + hvalr whale, from its white colour, supposed to resemble a human corpse
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 narwhal

n.

1650s, from Danish and Norwegian narhval, probably a metathesis of Old Norse nahvalr, literally "corpse-whale," from na "corpse" + hvalr "whale" (see whale). So called from resemblance of its whitish color to that of dead bodies. The first element is from PIE *nau- "death; to be exhausted" (cf. Old English ne, neo, Gothic naus "corpse," Old Cornish naun, Old Church Slavonic navi, Old Prussian nowis "corpse," Lettish nawe "death," Lithuanian novyti "to torture, kill").

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper