What does whale mean?

Definitions for whale
ʰweɪl, weɪlwhale

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word whale.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. giant, hulk, heavyweight, whalenoun

    a very large person; impressive in size or qualities

  2. whaleverb

    any of the larger cetacean mammals having a streamlined body and breathing through a blowhole on the head

  3. whaleverb

    hunt for whales


  1. whalenoun

    Any of several species of large sea mammals.

  2. whalenoun

    Something, or someone, that is very large.

  3. whalenoun

    (In a casino) a person who routinely bets at the maximum limit allowable.

  4. whaleverb

    To hunt for whales.

  5. whaleverb

    To flog, to beat.

  6. Etymology: from hwæl, from hwalaz (compare German Wal, Danish hval), from (s)kʷálos 'sheatfish' (compare German Wels, Latin squalus, Old Prussian kalis, Ancient Greek ἄσπαλος, Avestan...).

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Whalenoun

    The largest of fish; the largest of the animals that inhabit this globe.

    Etymology: hwale , Saxon.

    God created the great whales. Genesis.

    Barr’d up with ribs of whale-bone, she did leese
    None of the whale ’s length, for it reach’d her knees. Richard Corbet.

    The greatest whale that swims the sea,
    Does instantly my pow’r obey. Jonathan Swift.


  1. Whale

    Whales are a widely distributed and diverse group of fully aquatic placental marine mammals. They are an informal grouping within the infraorder Cetacea, which usually excludes dolphins and porpoises. Whales, dolphins and porpoises belong to the order Cetartiodactyla, which consists of even-toed ungulates. Their closest non-cetacean living relatives are the hippopotamuses, from which they and other cetaceans diverged about 54 million years ago. The two parvorders of whales, baleen whales (Mysticeti) and toothed whales (Odontoceti), are thought to have had their last common ancestor around 34 million years ago. Whales consist of eight extant families: Balaenopteridae (the rorquals), Balaenidae (right whales), Cetotheriidae (the pygmy right whale), Eschrichtiidae (the grey whale), Monodontidae (belugas and narwhals), Physeteridae (the sperm whale), Kogiidae (the dwarf and pygmy sperm whale), and Ziphiidae (the beaked whales). Whales are fully aquatic, open-ocean creatures: they can feed, mate, give birth, suckle and raise their young at sea. Whales range in size from the 2.6 metres (8.5 ft) and 135 kilograms (298 lb) dwarf sperm whale to the 29.9 metres (98 ft) and 190 metric tons (210 short tons) blue whale, which is the largest known creature that has ever lived. The sperm whale is the largest toothed predator on earth. Several whale species exhibit sexual dimorphism, in that the females are larger than males. Baleen whales have no teeth; instead they have plates of baleen, fringe-like structures that enable them to expel the huge mouthfuls of water they take in, while retaining the krill and plankton they feed on. Because their heads are enormous—making up as much as 40% of their total body mass—and they have throat pleats that enable then to expand their mouths, they are able to take huge quantities of water into their mouth at a time. Baleen whales also have a well developed sense of smell. Toothed whales, in contrast, have conical teeth adapted to catching fish or squid. They also have such keen hearing—whether above or below the surface of the water—that some can survive even if they are blind. Some species, such as sperm whales, are particularly well adapted for diving to great depths to catch squid and other favoured prey. Whales evolved from land-living mammals, and must regularly surface to breathe air, although they can remain under water for long periods of time. Some species, such as the sperm whale can stay underwater for up to 90 minutes They have blowholes (modified nostrils) located on top of their heads, through which air is taken in and expelled. They are warm-blooded, and have a layer of fat, or blubber, under the skin. With streamlined fusiform bodies and two limbs that are modified into flippers, whales can travel at speeds of up to 20 knots, though they are not as flexible or agile as seals. Whales produce a great variety of vocalizations, notably the extended songs of the humpback whale. Although whales are widespread, most species prefer the colder waters of the northern and southern hemispheres, and migrate to the equator to give birth. Species such as humpbacks and blue whales are capable of travelling thousands of miles without feeding. Males typically mate with multiple females every year, but females only mate every two to three years. Calves are typically born in the spring and summer; females bear all the responsibility for raising them. Mothers in some species fast and nurse their young for one to two years. Once relentlessly hunted for their products, whales are now protected by international law. The North Atlantic right whales nearly became extinct in the twentieth century, with a population low of 450, and the North Pacific grey whale population is ranked Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Besides the threat from whalers, they also face threats from bycatch and marine pollution. The meat, blubber and baleen of whales have traditionally been used by indigenous peoples of the Arctic. Whales have been depicted in various cultures worldwide, notably by the Inuit and the coastal peoples of Vietnam and Ghana, who sometimes hold whale funerals. Whales occasionally feature in literature and film. A famous example is the great white whale in Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick. Small whales, such as belugas, are sometimes kept in captivity and trained to perform tricks, but breeding success has been poor and the animals often die within a few months of capture. Whale watching has become a form of tourism around the world.


  1. whale

    A whale is a large, aquatic mammal that belongs to the order Cetacea, which also includes dolphins and porpoises. They are characterized by their large size, elongated bodies, flipper-shaped limbs, and a horizontal tail fin. Whales are known for their intelligent and complex behaviors, such as singing, socializing, and tool use. They are divided into two suborders: toothed whales, which hunt and eat other animals, and baleen whales, which filter feed for tiny crustaceans and small fish. Despite living in the ocean, whales breathe air into their lungs, are warm-blooded, give birth to live young and nurse their offspring.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Whalenoun

    any aquatic mammal of the order Cetacea, especially any one of the large species, some of which become nearly one hundred feet long. Whales are hunted chiefly for their oil and baleen, or whalebone

  2. Etymology: [OE. whal, AS. hwl; akin to D. walvisch, G. wal, walfisch, OHG. wal, Icel. hvalr, Dan. & Sw. hval, hvalfisk. Cf. Narwhal, Walrus.]


  1. Whale

    Whale is the common name for various marine mammals of the order Cetacea. The term whale sometimes refers to all cetaceans, but more often it excludes dolphins and porpoises, which belong to the suborder Odontoceti. This suborder also includes the sperm whale, killer whale, pilot whale, and beluga whale. The other Cetacean suborder, Mysticeti, comprises filter feeders that eat small organisms caught by straining seawater through a comblike structure found in the mouth called baleen. This suborder includes the blue whale, the humpback whale, the bowhead whale and the minke whale. All cetaceans have forelimbs modified as fins, a tail with horizontal flukes, and nasal openings on top of the head. Whales range in size from the blue whale, the largest animal known to have ever existed at 30 m and 180 tonnes, to various pygmy species, such as the pygmy sperm whale at 3.5 m. Whales collectively inhabit all the world's oceans and number in the millions, with annual population growth rate estimates for various species ranging from 3% to 13%.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Whale

    hwāl, n. the common name of a cetaceous mammal, the largest of sea-animals, including the toothed whales, such as Sperm Whale and Dolphin, and the whalebone whales, such as Right Whale and Rorqual, in which the teeth are only embryonic.—v.i. to take whales.—ns. Whale′-back, a boat whose maindecks are covered in and rounded, for rough seas; Whale′-boat, a long, narrow boat used in the pursuit of whales; Whale′bone, a light flexible substance consisting of the baleen plates of the Arctic and allied whales.—adj. made of whalebone.—ns. Whale′-calf, a young whale—also Calf whale; Whale′-fish′er, one engaged in whale-fishery or the hunting of whales; Whale′-fish′ery; Whale′-fish′ing; Whale′-line, strong rope used for harpoon-lines in the whale-fishery; Whale′-louse, a genus of Crustacea, parasitic on the skin of Cetaceans; Whale′-man, Whāl′er, a person employed in whale-fishing; Whale′-oil, oil obtained from the blubber of a whale; Whāl′er, Whale′ship, a ship employed in the whale-fishing; Whāl′ery, whaling.—adj. Whāl′ing, connected with whale-catching.—n. the business of catching whales.—ns. Whāl′ing-gun, a contrivance for killing whales by means of a projectile; Whāl′ing-mas′ter, the captain of a whaler; Whāl′ing-port, a port where whalers are registered.—Whale's bone, ivory.—Bull whale, an adult male whale. [A.S. hwæl (Ice. hvalr, Ger. walfisch); orig. unknown.]

  2. Whale

    hwāl, v.t. (slang) to thrash. [Form of wale.]

Dictionary of Nautical Terms

  1. whale

    A general term for various marine animals of the order Cetacea, including the most colossal of all animated beings. From their general form and mode of life they are frequently confounded with fish, from which, however, they differ essentially in their organization, as they are warm-blooded, ascend to the surface to breathe air, produce their young alive, and suckle them, as do the land mammalia. The cetacea are divided into two sections:--1. Those having horny plates, called baleen, or "whalebone," growing from the palate instead of teeth, and including the right whales and rorquals, or finners and hump-backs (see these terms). 2. Those having true teeth and no whalebone. To this group belong the sperm-whale, and the various forms of bottle-noses, black-fish, grampuses, narwhals, dolphins, porpoises, &c. To the larger species of many of these the term "whale" is often applied.

Editors Contribution

  1. whale

    A type of animal.

    Whales are marine animals.

    Submitted by MaryC on March 8, 2020  

Suggested Resources

  1. whale

    Song lyrics by whale -- Explore a large variety of song lyrics performed by whale on the Lyrics.com website.

Surnames Frequency by Census Records

  1. WHALE

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Whale is ranked #66553 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

    The Whale surname appeared 297 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 0 would have the surname Whale.

    83.8% or 249 total occurrences were White.
    9.7% or 29 total occurrences were Black.
    3.3% or 10 total occurrences were of two or more races.
    2% or 6 total occurrences were American Indian or Alaskan Native.

Matched Categories

British National Corpus

  1. Nouns Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'whale' in Nouns Frequency: #2492

How to pronounce whale?

How to say whale in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of whale in Chaldean Numerology is: 2

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of whale in Pythagorean Numerology is: 4

Examples of whale in a Sentence

  1. John Adams:

    We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.

  2. Jeremy Goldbogen:

    First we have to find a blue whale, which can be very difficult because these animals range across vast swaths of the open ocean. By combining many years of field experience and some luck, we position a small, rigid-hulled, inflatable boat on the whale's left side, we then have to deploy the tag using a six-meter (20-foot) long carbon-fiber pole. As the whale surfaces to breathe, we tag the whale in a location that we think is closest to the heart: just behind the whale's left flipper.

  3. Williams Grey:

    Reducing a beautiful, sentient whale to an ingredient on the side of a beer bottle is about as immoral and outrageous as it is possible to get, the brewery may claim that this is just a novelty product with a short shelf life, but what price the life of an endangered whale which might have lived to be 90 years?

  4. Thorsten J. Pattberg:

    Calling Confucius a philosopher is the wrong classification. Like calling a whale a fish.

  5. Elizabeth Beneloga:

    The whale sharks in Oslob have been in our waters since time immemorial, the fishermen feed the whale sharks only to attract them to the water's surface -- it's a small amount of krill, and the feeding stops in the afternoon.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for whale

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"whale." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 8 Dec. 2023. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/whale>.

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    joint that forms a corner; usually both sides are bevelled at a 45-degree angle to form a 90-degree corner
    • A. conveyance
    • B. whitewash
    • C. sheath
    • D. mitre

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