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Bay of, an inlet of the Ross Sea, in Antarctica: location of Little America.
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.
to engage in whaling or whale fishing.
to hit, thrash, or beat soundly.
Contemporary Examples

But along with Whales, their mammal cousins, dolphins may face more danger over the long term below the surface of the sea.
Are These Dolphins Doomed? Eli Kintisch May 6, 2010

One volunteer said, “We’re down here to save the Whales, not to make a television show.”
The Whale Wars Season Premiere Andy Dehnart June 1, 2011

Fifty percent of them believed they actually went to Sea World and swam with Whales.
The Decade Google Made You Stupid Douglas Rushkoff December 12, 2009

And this in turn affects the fish, Whales, dolphins, turtles, dugongs and seabirds that live within the Reef.
Australia Wants to Open the Great Barrier Reef to Dumping Kirsten Alexander June 1, 2014

But which mammals are their closest relatives, and when did Whales enter the seas?
How Long Is a Year? Is the Earth Slowing Down? And Other Questions About Time Neil Shubin January 5, 2013

Historical Examples

When first sighted from the ship the Whales were not more than two miles distant, and moving towards her.
Rodman The Boatsteerer And Other Stories Louis Becke

Thor caught two Whales and carried them to the giant’s house, as he had promised.
Classic Myths Mary Catherine Judd

Are we not satisfied with Whales and walruses, bears and seals, deer and birds?
The Walrus Hunters R.M. Ballantyne

Then we ran close to the neighborhood of a school of Whales, evidently feeding.
Tales of Fishes Zane Grey

To add to the excitement, a couple of Whales came blowing up the passage, coming within a hundred yards of the schooners.
The Sea Lions James Fenimore Cooper

noun (pl) whales, 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 head related adjective cetacean
any cetacean mammal See also toothed whale, whalebone whale
(slang) a gambler who has the capacity to win and lose large sums of money in a casino
(informal) a whale of a, an exceptionally large, fine, etc, example of a (person or thing): we had a whale of a time on holiday
(transitive) to beat or thrash soundly

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.).

verb phrase

To lose all one’s money; go broke, tap out (1950s+ Gambling)

Related Terms


like kicking dead whales down the beach

The Hebrew word _tan_ (plural, tannin) is so rendered in Job 7:12 (A.V.; but R.V., “sea-monster”). It is rendered by “dragons” in Deut. 32:33; Ps. 91:13; Jer. 51:34; Ps. 74:13 (marg., “whales;” and marg. of R.V., “sea-monsters”); Isa. 27:1; and “serpent” in Ex. 7:9 (R.V. marg., “any large reptile,” and so in ver. 10, 12). The words of Job (7:12), uttered in bitter irony, where he asks, “Am I a sea or a whale?” simply mean, “Have I a wild, untamable nature, like the waves of the sea, which must be confined and held within bounds, that they cannot pass?” “The serpent of the sea, which was but the wild, stormy sea itself, wound itself around the land, and threatened to swallow it up…Job inquires if he must be watched and plagued like this monster, lest he throw the world into disorder” (Davidson’s Job). The whale tribe are included under the general Hebrew name _tannin_ (Gen. 1:21; Lam. 4:3). “Even the sea-monsters [tanninim] draw out the breast.” The whale brings forth its young alive, and suckles them. It is to be noticed of the story of Jonah’s being “three days and three nights in the whale’s belly,” as recorded in Matt. 12:40, that here the Gr. ketos means properly any kind of sea-monster of the shark or the whale tribe, and that in the book of Jonah (1:17) it is only said that “a great fish” was prepared to swallow Jonah. This fish may have been, therefore, some great shark. The white shark is known to frequent the Mediterranean Sea, and is sometimes found 30 feet in length.


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