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Phocoena phocoena (1)


From Middle English porpeys, purpeys, from Anglo-Norman porpeis, purpeis, Old French pourpois, pourpais, porpeis (porpoise), from Vulgar Latin *porcopiscis (porpoise, literally pig-fish), from Latin porcus (pig) + piscis (fish). Compare (in transposed order) obsolete Italian pesce porco and Portuguese peixe porco; also Latin porcus marinus (sea hog), akin in formation to German Meerschwein, English mereswine. More at mereswine.



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porpoise (plural porpoises)

  1. A small cetacean of the family Phocoenidae, related to whales and dolphins.
  2. (Canada, US, imprecisely) Any small dolphin.




porpoise (third-person singular simple present porpoises, present participle porpoising, simple past and past participle porpoised)

  1. (intransitive) Said of an air-breathing aquatic animal such as a porpoise or penguin: To repeatedly jump out of the water to take a breath and dive back in a continuous motion.
    • 1979, J.G. Ballard, The Unlimited Dream Company, chapter 15:
      Urging them to join me, I raced in circles through the surging water, chased my tail for the children, blew spouts of foam through the sunfilled spray, porpoised to and fro across the river in shallow leaps that stitched the air and water into a table-lace of foam.
  2. (intransitive) Said of an aircraft: to make a series of plunges when taking off or landing; or of a watercraft: to successively plunge up and down in the water.

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