<zoology> 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.
The existing whales are divided into two groups: the toothed whales (Odontocete), including those that have teeth, as the cachalot, or sperm whale (see Sperm whale); and the baleen, or whalebone, whales (Mysticete), comprising those that are destitute of teeth, but have plates of baleen hanging from the upper jaw, as the right whales. The most important species of whalebone whales are the bowhead, or Greenland, whale, the Biscay whale, the Antarctic whale, the gray whale (see under Gray), the humpback, the finback, and the rorqual. Whale bird.
Origin: OE. Whal, AS. Hwael; akin to D. Walvisch, G. Wal, walfisch, OHG. Wal, Icel. Hvalr, Dan. & Sw. Hval, hvalfisk. Cf. Narwhal, Walrus.
(01 Mar 1998)
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