[hweyl, weyl]

noun, plural whales, (especially collectively) whale.

any of the larger marine mammals of the order Cetacea, especially as distinguished from the smaller dolphins and porpoises, having a fishlike body, forelimbs modified into flippers, and a head that is horizontally flattened.
Informal. something big, great, or fine of its kind: I had a whale of a time in Europe.
(initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Cetus.

verb (used without object), whaled, whal·ing.

to engage in whaling or whale fishing.

Origin of whale

before 900; Middle English; Old English hwæl; cognate with German Wal- in Walfisch, Old Norse hvalr; perhaps akin to Latin squalus kind of fish
Can be confusedwail whale


[hweyl, weyl]

verb, whaled, whal·ing,

to hit, thrash, or beat soundly.

Origin of whale

First recorded in 1780–90; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for whale

Contemporary Examples of whale

Historical Examples of whale

  • The swordfish and others frequently attack the whale with the utmost audacity.

    Torrey's Narrative

    William Torrey

  • This was hardly true, for the whale could not have kept up its attacks much longer.

  • That saying of Newman became common ever afterwards on board, when we saw a man determined to do a thing—“Kill the whale he will!”

    Old Jack

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • To the Nantucketer, they present the two extremes of all the known varieties of the whale.

  • The game is to guess in which pile is the whale, and the crab, and the duck.

British Dictionary definitions for whale



noun plural whales or whale

any of the larger cetacean mammals, excluding dolphins, porpoises, and narwhals. They have flippers, a streamlined body, and a horizontally flattened tail and breathe through a blowhole on the top of the headRelated adjective: cetacean
any cetacean mammalSee also toothed whale, whalebone whale
slang a gambler who has the capacity to win and lose large sums of money in a casino
a whale of a informal an exceptionally large, fine, etc, example of a (person or thing)we had a whale of a time on holiday

Word Origin for whale

Old English hwæl; related to Old Saxon, Old High German hwal, Old Norse hvalr, Latin squalus seapig




(tr) to beat or thrash soundly

Word Origin for whale

C18: variant of wale 1
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 whale

Old English hwæl, from Proto-Germanic *khwalaz (cf. Old Saxon hwal, Old Norse hvalr, hvalfiskr, Swedish val, Middle Dutch wal, walvisc, Dutch walvis, Old High German wal, German Wal); probably cognate with Latin squalus "a kind of large sea fish." Phrase whale of a "excellent or large example" is c.1900, student slang.


"beat, whip severely," 1790, possibly a variant of wale (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper