[pawr-puh s]

noun, plural (especially collectively) por·poise, (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) por·pois·es.

any of several small, gregarious cetaceans of the genus Phocoena, usually blackish above and paler beneath, and having a blunt, rounded snout, especially the common porpoise, P. phocoena, of both the North Atlantic and Pacific.
any of several other small cetaceans, as the common dolphin, Delphinus delphis.

verb (used without object), por·poised, por·pois·ing.

(of a speeding motorboat) to leap clear of the water after striking a wave.
(of a torpedo) to appear above the surface of the water.
to move forward with a rising and falling motion in the manner of a porpoise: The car has a tendency to porpoise when overloaded.

Origin of porpoise

1275–1325; Middle English porpoys < Middle French porpois < Vulgar Latin *porcopiscis hog fish, for Latin porcus marīnus sea hog
Related formspor·poise·like, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for porpoise

Historical Examples of porpoise

  • Perhaps, suggested Bell, we might make a ship out of some of the planks of the Porpoise.

    The Field of Ice

    Jules Verne

  • But I wonder what the Porpoise was, and what brought her in these seas?

    The Field of Ice

    Jules Verne

  • The next business was to move in all the furniture of the Porpoise.

    The Field of Ice

    Jules Verne

  • He might as well have tried to get early speed out of a porpoise.

    Old Man Curry

    Charles E. (Charles Emmett) Van Loan

  • Then we've not much to fear from him; but here he is, puffing like a porpoise.

British Dictionary definitions for porpoise


noun plural -poises or -poise

any of various small cetacean mammals of the genus Phocaena and related genera, having a blunt snout and many teeth: family Delphinidae (or Phocaenidae)
(not in technical use) any of various related cetaceans, esp the dolphin

Word Origin for porpoise

C14: from French pourpois, from Medieval Latin porcopiscus (from Latin porcus pig + piscis fish), replacing Latin porcus marīnus sea pig
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 porpoise

early 14c., porpas, from Old French porpais (12c.) "porpoise," literally "pork fish," from porc "pork" (see pork (n.)) + peis "fish," from Latin piscis "fish" (see fish (n.)).

The Old French word probably is a loan-translation of a Germanic word meaning literally "sea-hog, mere-swine;" cf. Old Norse mar-svin, Old High German meri-swin, Middle Dutch mereswijn "porpoise" (the last of which also was borrowed directly into French and became Modern French marsouin).

Classical Latin had a similar name, porculus marinus (in Pliny), and the notion behind the name likely is a fancied resemblance of the snout to that of a pig.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper