One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A toothed whale with a massive head, typically feeding at great depths on squid, formerly valued for the spermaceti and sperm oil in its head and the ambergris in its intestines.
Family Physeteridae: two genera and three species, in particular the very large Physeter macrocephalus (also called cachalot)
- ‘The most remarkable addition was the skeleton of a 60 ft sperm whale that had washed up at nearby Tunstall in 1825.’
- ‘It features the creature of the title, a giant sperm whale, as it swims through disparate oceans, encountering man and beast through the ages.’
- ‘Unlike Long John Silver, Captain Ahab uses no crutch, for he has replaced his missing limb with a piece of jaw-bone taken from a sperm whale.’
- ‘‘He must know we have the paparazzi on board,’ muses Lisa Steiner as the massive bulk of a sperm whale cruises gracefully across the bow of our boat.’
- ‘A rescue operation to save a baby sperm whale which lost its way in the Humber estuary ended in failure last night.’
- ‘The sperm whale, a toothed mammal whose lower jaw resembles a vast surfboard with peaked crenellations at its edges, has been found at 3000 metres.’
- ‘In 1820, a sperm whale sunk an American whaler 2,000 km from land.’
- ‘A few months ago, a sperm whale was washed ashore in the city.’
- ‘They live in very deep waters, at about 500 metres and below, and provide fodder for the sperm whale.’
- ‘And I marvelled at the museum's centre-piece - a 55-foot long skeleton of a sperm whale, which would have weighed more than 20 tons when it was alive.’
- ‘Both these polar seas are hunting grounds for the sperm whale.’
- ‘It's a time trap, one big playground that sucks you in before you even get to the earthquake simulator or the suspended skeleton of a sperm whale.’
- ‘It's a very small collection, with the exception of the sperm whale.’
- ‘She and her government claim that there are now sufficient numbers of whales in the oceans - around a million minke and two million sperm whale - that they can be harvested sustainably.’
- ‘Wanda is an exact full-scale model of a sperm whale and is used to educate children about whales and the importance of protecting the environment.’
- ‘Gosnell Hall, the largest room in the museum, contains a skeleton of a forty-six-foot-long sperm whale, a thirty-foot-long whaleboat, whaling tools, and ship captains' portraits.’
- ‘In the chill of the Arctic and Antarctic, as in the chill of the deep abyss, the sperm whale is warmed by what whalers call ‘the blanket’, which is eight inches of blubber.’
- ‘This anatomical quirk occurs only in toothed whales - including the sperm whale, narwhal, orca, and porpoise - and it helps explain an old maritime mystery.’
- ‘This stupor is broken, however, when a sperm whale is spotted.’
- ‘When a sperm whale is killed at night, it is customary to send the men to bed till morning before cutting into it; but this isn't always possible, because of the many sharks that always gather around the corpse, and devour it.’
Mid 19th century: sperm, abbreviation of spermaceti.
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