Definition of narwhal in US English:



  • A small Arctic whale, the male of which has a long forward-pointing spirally twisted tusk developed from one of its teeth.

    Monodon monoceros, family Monodontidae

    • ‘Occasionally they even pluck a walrus, beluga whale, or narwhal from the watery depths below the pack ice.’
    • ‘The tusk of narwhals is found only in males; the teeth of females remain imbedded in their jaws.’
    • ‘Furthermore, unlike the curved teeth of elephants and warthogs, the narwhal tooth is nature's only straight tusk.’
    • ‘The fjords around Ammassalik Island are brimming with narwhals, seals, ermine, arctic wolves and dozens of other cold-comfort creatures.’
    • ‘The tusk of whale or narwhal is spirally curved, and can measure up to 2.5 m in length.’
    • ‘‘The extraordinary tusk of the narwhal has fascinated and puzzled scientists for hundreds of years,’ according to the expedition's Web site.’
    • ‘Polar bears are seagoing hunters that roam vast areas of the Arctic, pursuing a movable feast of seals, narwhals, beluga whales, and walruses.’
    • ‘A dive was defined as submergence below 8 m, and the surface was defined as above 9 m, following sampling schemes also used for narwhals and belugas.’
    • ‘The Antarctic lacks small resident toothed whales like the beluga and the narwhal of the Arctic.’
    • ‘The exhibit, showcasing such images as kayaks, walruses, seals and narwhal, reflects the close relationship between Inuit and water.’
    • ‘His narwhal tusks stand in the attic near a loose pile of taxidermic heads.’
    • ‘This learned history of the Far North probes the lives of narwhals, belugas, polar bears, humans, and other life forms that have eked out a living in this dazzling, difficult land.’
    • ‘A great white shark with a narwhal horn and legs seems to be attacking the glass.’
    • ‘For centuries observers have been fascinated and mystified by the majestic spiral tusk grown by the small Arctic whale known as the narwhal.’
    • ‘In fact it was a narwhal tusk, or possibly rhinoceros horn.’
    • ‘The narwhal is a smaller whale that lives most of its life north of the Arctic Circle.’
    • ‘Aquatic mammals that live in the waters off the coast include walrus, ringed seals, bearded seals, beluga, narwhal, and various other whales.’
    • ‘Dolphins and porpoises are examples of odontocetes, as are belugas, narwhals, killer whales, sperm whales, and beaked whales.’
    • ‘The tusked narwhal, white beluga whales and elusive bowhead whale all live off the northern part of this island.’
    • ‘Strictly speaking, the term should be applied only to the tusks of elephants, although a wider definition includes the teeth of the hippo, narwhal whale and the walrus.’


Mid 17th century: from Dutch narwal, Danish narhval, based on Old Norse nár ‘corpse’, with reference to skin color.