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[buh-leen] /bəˈlin/
whalebone (def 1).
Origin of baleen
1275-1325; Middle English balene (< Anglo-French baleine, beleine) < Latin bal(l)ēna, variant of bal(l)aena whale < an unidentified language, also the source of Greek phál(l)aina whale; replacing Middle English balayn < Middle French balaine whale(bone) < Latin, as above Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for baleen
  • Blue whales are the largest baleen whale species--in fact they are the largest animal in the world.
  • Pulsing sounds made by technology used to monitor fish stocks may affect how baleen whales communicate, even at great distances.
  • baleen whales: rorquals, grey whales, right whales and their relatives.
  • Explain that humpbacks are baleen whales, which means they don't have teeth.
  • The largest animal ever to have lived, the blue whale is a marvel of bone and blubber, blowhole and baleen-in immense proportions.
  • Link to the page on baleen whales and read the section on humpbacks.
  • Humpback whales, along with all other baleen whales, have a paired blowhole atop their heads.
  • The right whale is a baleen whale, meaning it has not teeth, but uses baleen plates to strain its prey.
  • Bowhead whales are baleen whales, which means they do not have teeth, but baleen plates instead.
  • As bowheads are baleen whales, they filter their food through their long baleen plates.
British Dictionary definitions for baleen


Word Origin
C14: from Latin bālaena whale; related to Greek phalaina whale
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for baleen

early 14c., "whalebone," from Old French balaine (12c.) "whale, whalebone," from Latin ballaena, from Greek phallaina "whale" (apparently related to phallos "swollen penis," probably because of a whale's shape), from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, inflate, swell" (see bole). Klein writes that the Greek to Latin transition was "through the medium of the Illyrian language, a fact which explains the transition of Gk. -ph- into Latin -b- (instead of -p-)."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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baleen in Science
A flexible horny substance hanging in fringed plates from the upper jaw of baleen whales. It is used to strain plankton from seawater when feeding. Also called whalebone.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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