Attack physically or verbally, as in Our boys whaled away at the enemy, or The talk-show host whaled away at the hostile critics. The word whale here does not allude to the ocean mammal, but means “flog” or “thrash.” [Mid-1800s]
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- whale catcher,
- whale of a time,
- whale oil,
- whale shark,
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.