whale

1
[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

1
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

whale

2
[hweyl, weyl]

verb, whaled, whal·ing,

to hit, thrash, or beat soundly.

Origin of whale

2
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 history of Jonah and the whale, I read at least twenty times.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Of what being Progressive was she had no more notion than a whale.

    Alarms and Discursions

    G. K. Chesterton

  • Will you kindly allow us to join your party when you go to see the whale to-morrow?

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • "Very like a whale, if not like a codfish," said Miss Wayland, laughing heartily.

    The Green Satin Gown

    Laura E. Richards

  • At Zierikzee, in Zeeland, a whale has been stranded by a high tide and a gale of wind.

    Albert Durer

    T. Sturge Moore


British Dictionary definitions for whale

whale

1

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

whale

2

verb

(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
n.

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.

v.

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper