• WordNet 3.6
    • n whalebone a horny material from the upper jaws of certain whales; used as the ribs of fans or as stays in corsets
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • n Whalebone A firm, elastic substance resembling horn, taken from the upper jaw of the right whale; baleen. It is used as a stiffening in stays, fans, screens, and for various other purposes. See Baleen.☞ Whalebone is chiefly obtained from the bowhead, or Greenland, whale, the Biscay whale, and the Antarctic, or southern, whale. It is prepared for manufacture by being softened by boiling, and dyed black.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n whalebone The elastic horny substance which grows in place of teeth in the upper jaw of whales of the family Balænidæ (hence called whalebone or bone whales), forming a series of thin parallel plates from a few inches to several feet long; baleen (which see). The term is misleading, for the substance is in no sense bone, but a kind of horn; and its trade-name whale-fin is equally inaccurate, for it has nothing to do with the fins of the whale. Whalebone grows in several hundred close-set parallel plates along each side of the upper jaw of the baleen whale, and thus in the situation occupied by the teeth of ordinary mammals; it is entirely shut, in by the lips when the mouth is closed. Each one of the plates of both rows then bends with a strong sweep back. ward, and when the mouth is opened straightens out, so that there is always a heavy fringe on each side of the cavity of the mouth, forming an impassable barrier to the multitudinous small creatures which the whale scoops in from the surface of the sea. The longest baleen plates are those of the polar whale, some of which may exceed 12 feet in length. The plates in different species differ in color from a dull grayish-black through various streaked or veined colorations to somewhat creamy white. Whalebone stands quite alone among animal substances in a particular combination of lightness, toughness, flexibility, elasticity, and durability, together with such a cleavage (due to the straightness of its parallel fibers) that it may be split for its whole length to any desired thinness of strips. A sulphur-bottom whale has yielded 800 pounds of baleen, of which the longest plates were 4 feet in length. In the California gray whale the longest bone is from 14 to 16 inches, of a light or whitish color, coarse-grained, and heavily and unevenly fringed. The baleen of a finback is of a light lead-color streaked with black, attaining a length of 2 feet 4 inches and a width of from 12 to 14 inches, with a fine fringe from 2 to 4 inches long; it is somewhat ridged crosswise. That of the sharp-headed finner is entirely white, with a short thin fringe; it has been found to consist of 270 pairs of plates, the longest, being 10 inches in length. Whalebone is or has been used in the manufacture of a great variety of articles.
    • n whalebone Something made of whalebone or baleen; a piece of whalebone prepared for some regular use: as, the whalebones of a corset.
    • n whalebone Specifically. a whalebone riding-whip.
    • n whalebone In the middle ages, ivory from the narwhal, walrus, or other sea-creature, or supposed to be from such a source. See whale's bone, under whale, n.
    • whalebone Made of or containing whalebone.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • Whalebone a light flexible substance consisting of the baleen plates of the Arctic and allied whales
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
A.S. hwæl (Ice. hvalr, Ger. walfisch); orig. unknown.


In literature:

But within the last ten years there have been so many substitutes for whalebone that its value has gone down.
"The Boy With the U. S. Fisheries" by Francis Rolt-Wheeler
Little use has she for whalebones and furbelows.
"The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 17, No. 100, February, 1866" by Various
Then came the fins, and after them the upper jaw, with the whalebone attached to it.
"Fighting the Whales" by R. M. Ballantyne
The travellers consisted of an old French lady and gentleman; Madame in a high crimped cap, and stiff long whalebone stays.
"Travels through the South of France and the Interior of Provinces of Provence and Languedoc in the Years 1807 and 1808" by Lt-Col. Pinkney
How could Patty come here, and dressed in silk and whalebone too?
"Life And Adventures Of Peter Wilkins, Vol. I. (of II.)" by Robert Paltock
She bit and thrashed and tore at him, her bare little body hard as whalebone and slippery with sweat.
"The Stars, My Brothers" by Edmond Hamilton
Under his left arm was a long, black whalebone riding-whip, with a red lash, and an immense silver knob.
"The Romany Rye A Sequel to 'Lavengro'" by George Borrow
Still they have dogs and snares set with whalebone.
"Celebrated Travels and Travellers" by Jules Verne
Also they had Whalebone Petticoats, outdoing ours by several yards in circumference.
"The Strange Adventures of Captain Dangerous, Vol. 2 of 3" by George Augustus Sala
He had too much whalebone in his composition, not enough steel, but he was improving.
"The Pools of Silence" by H. de Vere Stacpoole
The Whalebone Whale reaches a length of over 70 feet, but is timid and inoffensive.
"The Beauties of Nature" by Sir John Lubbock
Grace, bring that piece of whalebone directly.
"Harper's Young People, January 6, 1880" by Various
But the buckskins were sinewed with whalebone and used to desert work.
"Rimrock Trail" by J. Allan Dunn
That little devil is made of whalebone for toughness.
"The Treasure Trail" by Marah Ellis Ryan
Added to these stays, they wore hoops or petticoats well stiffened with whalebone.
"The Fairchild Family" by Mary Martha Sherwood
When dried this resembles whalebone, and makes a good coach-whip.
"Due South or Cuba Past and Present" by Maturin M. Ballou
The pink parasol had tender whalebone ribs and a slender stick of cherry-wood.
"Very Short Stories and Verses For Children" by Mrs. W. K. Clifford
Whalebone, wood, steel, and every other unyielding substance, should be banished from the toilet, as enemies of the human race.
"A Treatise on Anatomy, Physiology, and Hygiene (Revised Edition)" by Calvin Cutter
It was as though he were made of whalebone springs.
"Gold" by Stewart White
Then the whipping recommenced; a whalebone blow now and then, then oftener and oftener.
"The Grandee" by Armando Palacio Valdés

In poetry:

Crow’s nest, tryworks
And all complete,
Carved out o’ whalebone
Neat as neat;
"South Sea Whaler. “Scrimshaw” Model" by Cicely Fox Smith
"I own six hundred reindeer,
With sheep and swine beside;
I have tribute from the Finns,
Whalebone and reindeer-skins,
And ropes of walrus-hide.
"Discoverer Of The North Cape. A Leaf From King Alfred's Orosius. (Birds Of Passage. Flight The First" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When in the usual place for rips
Our gloves are stitched with special care,
And guarded well the whalebone tips
Where first umbrellas need repair,--
"Latter-Day Warnings" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
And "Banker for choice" is the cry, and one voice
Screams "Six to four once upon Banker;"
"Banker wins," "Banker's beat," "Cadger wins," "A dead heat" —
Ah! there goes Fred's whalebone a flanker.
"Hippodromania; Or, Whiffs From The Pipe" by Adam Lindsay Gordon
Sae aff wi' the whalebone, the cane, an' the steel!
I likna the crinoline, trouth an' atweel;
It's fule-like an' fashous, it's cheatrie an' boss—
I wad jist ha'e yere cleedin' bien, genty, an' doss.
"Crinoline" by Janet Hamilton

In news:

Artic Raven owner Lee Brooks recently returned from the Saint Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea with fossilized whalebone, baleen and walrus ivory sculpture and jewelry from the Siberian Yup'ik, for this year's show.
Her only illustration was Magnusson's "flimsy"—a tracing-paper sketch of the skylight 's essential structural element, later dubbed the "whalebone" (see p 20).
T was in the 16th century that women first began to bind their waists and push their breasts heavenward with the help of some whalebones.
Lives Spared After Driver Plows Through Whalebone.
Disappearing Act is a 'Whalebone' of a Feat.
Australia's Best Longboarders Head West For ASP LQS Whalebone Classic.
Lives Spared After Driver Plows Through Whalebone .
Disappearing Act is a ' Whalebone ' of a Feat.
Drive south down Highway 12 from Whalebone Junction at Nags Head, on North Carolina's Outer Banks, until you start to see marsh and then a lighthouse.
At the Whalebone Creative, Jesse James Joeckel's silk-screen shop on Tuthill Road in Montauk, the mood is decidedly laid-back.
Lives Spared After Driver Plows Through Whalebone.
The pillars rise from Lake Sammamish, as large as whalebones and faded to a ghostly gray.
A history of corsetry, from whalebone to Lycra.
A short history of corsetry, from whalebone to Lycra.