One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Specifically. A toothed whale of the genus Physeter (family Physeteridae), which now includes only the sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus. Now only: (in form Physeter) the genus itself.
Late 16th century (in an earlier sense). From classical Latin phȳsētēr a kind of whale (Seneca, Pliny) from ancient Greek ϕυσητήρ instrument for blowing, in Hellenistic Greek also a kind of whale from ϕυσᾶν to blow + -τήρ, suffix forming agent nouns.
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