killer whale

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 orca on Wikipedia
 Orcinus orca on Wikispecies


Killer whales (orcas) jumping


Calque or mistranslation of Spanish asesina-ballenas (whale killer), referring to their tendency to hunt whales.


killer whale (plural killer whales)

  1. A sea mammal related to dolphins and porpoises (Orcinus orca).
    • 1851 Of this whale, little is known to the Nantucketer, and nothing at all to the professed naturalist. From what I have seen of him at a distance, I should say that he was about the bigness of a grampus. He is very savage - a sort of Feegee fish. He sometimes takes the great Folio whales by the lip and hangs there like a leech until the mighty brute is worried to death. The killer is never hunted. I have never heard what sort of oil he has. Exception might be taken to the name of this whale, on the grounds of its indistinctness. For we are all killers on land and on sea; Bonaparts and sharks included. — Herman Melville: Moby Dick. This ed. 1961 Arnot publishers. p.127.

Usage notes[edit]

Some prefer the term orca, as "killer whale" can be perceived as a loaded term.


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