right whale


any of several large whalebone whales of the genus Balaena, of circumpolar seas: the species B. glacialis is greatly reduced in numbers.



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Origin of right whale

First recorded in 1715–25; allegedly so called because it was the “right” whale to hunt, alluding to its relative buoyancy when killed, proximity to land, the value of its blubber, etc.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Example sentences from the Web for right whale

  • And the right-whale, not to be done in oddity, carries all his on his gums.

    Madam How and Lady Why|Charles Kingsley
  • On the separate subject of the Greenland or right-whale, he is the best existing authority.

    Moby Dick; or The Whale|Herman Melville

British Dictionary definitions for right whale

right whale


any large whalebone whale of the family Balaenidae. They are grey or black, have a large head, and, in most, no dorsal fin, and are hunted as a source of whalebone and oilSee also bowhead

Word Origin for right whale

C19: perhaps so named because it was right for hunting
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