whale (n.)

"animals of the mammalian order Cetacea," Old English hwæl "whale," also "walrus," from Proto-Germanic *hwalaz (source also of Old Saxon hwal, Old Norse hvalr, hvalfiskr, Swedish val, Middle Dutch wal, walvisc, Dutch walvis, Old High German wal, German Wal), from PIE *(s)kwal-o- (source also of Latin squalus "a kind of large sea fish"). In popular use it was applied to any large sea animal. Phrase whale of a "excellent or large example" is c. 1900, student slang. Whale-oil attested from mid-15c.

whale (v.1)

"pursue the business of whale-fishing," 1700, from whale (n.). Whale-fishing is attested from 1570s.

whale (v.2)

"beat, whip severely," 1790, possibly a variant of wale (v.) "to mark with 'wales' or stripes" (early 15c.), from wale (n.). Related: Whaled; whaling.

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Definitions of whale from WordNet
whale (n.)
a very large person; impressive in size or qualities;
Synonyms: giant / hulk / heavyweight
whale (n.)
any of the larger cetacean mammals having a streamlined body and breathing through a blowhole on the head;
whale (v.)
hunt for whales;