[hweylz, weylz]


[hweyl, weyl]
noun, plural whales, (especially collectively) whale.
  1. 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.
  2. Informal. something big, great, or fine of its kind: I had a whale of a time in Europe.
  3. (initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Cetus.
verb (used without object), whaled, whal·ing.
  1. 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,
  1. 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. 2018

Examples from the Web for whales

Contemporary Examples of whales

Historical Examples of whales

  • Thor caught two whales and carried them to the giant's house, as he had promised.

    Classic Myths

    Mary Catherine Judd

  • I've been turnin' out another school of swordfish and whales, too.


    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • It is so with earthquakes, cases of hydrophobia, whales stranded on the shore.

  • Then we ran close to the neighborhood of a school of whales, evidently feeding.

  • He did so, but he said that they were not whales; they were porpoises.

British Dictionary definitions for whales


noun plural whales or whale
  1. 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
  2. any cetacean mammalSee also toothed whale, whalebone whale
  3. slang a gambler who has the capacity to win and lose large sums of money in a casino
  4. 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


  1. (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 whales



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