Any of several species of large aquatic mammals; it has a fish-like body with paddle-like flippers, and a tail flattened horizontally into flukes for locomotion. It spends its whole life in water. Two main groups exist: toothed whales and baleen whales. Toothed whales
(Odontoceti) have simple teeth and feed primarily on fish and squid. They include the bottle-nosed whale, sperm whale
, and beluga
. Baleen whales
(Mysticeti), including the right whale
, blue whale
, and California
grey whale, have no teeth but carry comb-like plates of horny material (baleen or whalebone) in the roof of the mouth. These form a sieve, through which the whales strain krill
on which they feed. Order Cetacea. The order also includes dolphins
. See also whaling
whale1 / (h)wāl/ •
n. (pl. same or whales
) a very large marine mammal (order Cetacea) with a streamlined hairless body, a horizontal tail fin, and a blowhole on top of the head for breathing. See baleen whale and toothed whale.whale2 •
v. [tr.] inf. beat; hit: Dad came upstairs and whaled me | [intr.] they whaled at the water with their paddles.
in early translations of the Bible
, a whale is given as the ‘great fish’ which swallowed Jonah. A whale is the emblem of St Brendan
and the 6th–7th bishop St Malo, who is regarded as the apostle of Brittany.
Meat of Baleanoptera
spp. A 150‐g portion is a rich source
of protein, iron, and niacin; a source of vitamin B2
; contains 5 g of fat, of which 25% is saturated, 35% mono‐unsaturated; supplies 200 kcal (840 kJ).
= OHG. wal
(in modG. walfisch
), ON. hvalr
, rel. to OHG. walira
, (M)HG. wels
) sheath-fish. The present form reflects obl. cases of OE. hwæl
. Comp. whalebone
elastic bony substance of the upper jaw of whales XVII.