Whale, Wail or Wale

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A whale is a large marine mammal, one of the larger cetacean mammals that have flippers, a streamlined body and a blowhole. Whale may also be used as an adjective to signify something outstanding or impressive. Whale is also used as a verb to mean to thrash soundly, to beat upon, or to go fishing for whales. The word whale is derived from the Old English word hwæl.

A wail is a high-pitched cry of grief, anger or pain. Wail may be used as a noun or a verb, related words are wails, wailed, wailing, wailful, wailfully, wailingly, wailer. Wail is also used by American Jazz musicians to mean to play well. Wail comes from the Old Norse word væla, which means to lament.

A wale is a welt that raises up on the skin after a whipping. Wale may also be used to refer to a ridge of corduroy fabric or the weave of the fabric in general. Wale also refers to the horizontal band on a basket. Wale is derived from the Old English word walu, which means ridge of earth or stone, as well as stripe or weal.


About $1.3 million has been raised for scientific and educational efforts related to the sperm whale discovered in Singapore waters last July. (The Straits Times)

The story in “Sea of Echos” centers on a young fin whale that joins a pod of blue whales that — like the fin whale, named Fin — lost their mothers to whalers. (The South Bend Tribune)

Air raid siren wailed over London to mark 75th anniversary of the Blitz (The Telegraph)

Police helicopter scrambled after goat mistaken for ‘wailing woman’ (The Evening Standard)

Ferry wore a dark-blue wide-wale corduroy jacket (“Anderson & Sheppard—a Savile Row tailor, they have a beautiful old shop,” he said), a blue oxford shirt, a black wool scarf, and a coat with a fur-lined hood. (The New Yorker Magazine)