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[nahr-wuh l]
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  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

Related Words for narwhal

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

Examples from the Web for narwhal

Historical Examples of narwhal

  • 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


narwal narwhale (ˈnɑːˌweɪl)

  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 for narwhal

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


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