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Uncertain. Perhaps from balena (whale), due to a popular habit of indicating atmospherical phenomena using the names of sea monsters[1] +‎ -are (1st conjugation verbal suffix).


  • IPA(key): /ba.leˈ
  • Rhymes: -are
  • Hyphenation: ba‧le‧nà‧re


balenàre (first-person singular present baléno, first-person singular past historic balenài, past participle balenàto, auxiliary èssere or (alternatively when impersonal) avére) (intransitive)

  1. (impersonal) to flash with lightning [auxiliary avere or essere]
  2. (rare, personal) to flash with lightning (of the sky) [auxiliary essere]
  3. to flash like lightning [auxiliary essere]
    • 1980, Umberto Eco, “Primo giorno – Verso nona”, in Il nome della rosa [The Name of the Rose] (I grandi tascabili), Milan: Bompiani, published 1984, page 77:
      In corrispondenza del torrione occidentale si apriva un enorme forno per il pane che già balenava di fiamme rossastre.
      In correspondence of the western tower opened a huge bread oven that was already flashing reddish flames.
  4. (figuratively) to appear suddenly (of thoughts and ideas) [auxiliary essere]


Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ balenare in – Vocabolario Treccani on line, Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana