porpoise


porpoise
porpoiselike, adj.
/pawr"peuhs/, n., pl. (esp. collectively) porpoise, (esp. referring to two or more kinds or species) porpoises, v., porpoised, porpoising.
n.
1. any of several small, gregarious cetaceans of the genus Phocoena, usually blackish above and paler beneath, and having a blunt, rounded snout, esp. the common porpoise, P. phocoena, of both the North Atlantic and Pacific.
2. any of several other small cetaceans, as the common dolphin, Delphinus delphis.
v.i.
3. (of a speeding motorboat) to leap clear of the water after striking a wave.
4. (of a torpedo) to appear above the surface of the water.
5. to move forward with a rising and falling motion in the manner of a porpoise: The car has a tendency to porpoise when overloaded.
[1275-1325; ME porpoys < MF porpois < VL *porcopiscis hog fish, for L porcus marinus sea hog]

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Any toothed whale in the family Phocoenidae (or, by some authorities, part of the dolphin family Delphinidae).

The four species (genus Phocoena) of the common, or harbour, porpoise are primarily fish eaters that travel in pairs or large groups. They are gray or black above and white below. The shy P. phocoena, found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, rarely leaps. The other species of Phocoena are found along Californian and South American coasts. The active, gregarious Dall porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli) of the North Pacific and the True porpoise (P. truei) of Japan often swim with ships, usually in groups of 2 to 20. Both eat cephalopods and fishes and are black with a large white patch on each side. The black finless porpoise (Neomeris phocoenoides), a small, slow animal, inhabits the Pacific and Indian oceans. At most 7 ft (2 m) long, porpoises are shorter and chubbier than dolphins and have a blunt snout. Like the dolphins, they are known for their high intelligence.

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mammal
 specifically, any of six species of toothed whales (toothed whale) distinguishable from dolphins (dolphin) by their more compact build, generally smaller size (maximum length about 2 metres, or 6.6 feet), and curved, blunt snouts with spatulate rather than conical teeth. In North America the name is sometimes applied to dolphins (dolphin). The porpoise family consists of three genera: Phocoena, Phocoenoides, and Neophocaena.

      The four Phocoena species are primarily fish eaters that usually swim in pairs or small groups along coastlines and occasionally in rivers. They are gray or black above and white below. Best known of these is the harbour porpoise, P. phocoena, a shy cetacean that generally avoids boats and rarely leaps above the water. It is found throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere and is hunted in some regions. During the Middle Ages this animal was considered a royal delicacy. The other members of the genus are more restricted in distribution. The vaquita, or cochito (P. sinus), is listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Vaquitas are found only near the northern end of the Gulf of California (California, Gulf of). Burmeister's porpoise (P. spinipinnis) has blunt tubercles on its dorsal fin and lives off the coasts of eastern and western South America. The spectacled porpoise (P. dioptrica, sometimes referred to as Australophocaena diotropica) is named for the patchlike pigmentation pattern around its eyes and is distributed throughout the southern Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans.

      The Dall porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli) is the largest porpoise and the only member of its genus. Active and gregarious, it often rides the bow waves of ships. The Dall porpoise is black with a large white patch on each side of the body. It is usually seen in groups of 2 to 20 along the northern rim of the Pacific Ocean, where they eat squid and fish. True's porpoise (P. dalli truei) is considered by some authorities to be a separate subspecies and is distinguished from the Dall porpoise by its absence of the striking white body patches. It is found only near Japan.

      The finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) is a small, slow-moving inhabitant of coastal waters and rivers along the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean. Black above and white below, it has a rounded head. Unlike other porpoises, it lacks a dorsal fin entirely. The finless porpoise lives alone or in small groups and eats crustaceans, fish, and squid.

      Members of the family Phocoenidae are related to the oceanic dolphins (family Delphinidae), river dolphins (river dolphin), and other toothed whales of the suborder Odontoceti. The common name is derived from the Latin porcus (“hog” or “pig”) and piscinus (“fish”), as their flesh was said to taste somewhat like pork.

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Universalium. 2010.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Porpoise — Por poise, n. [OE. porpeys, OF. porpeis, literally, hog fish, from L. porcus swine + piscis fish. See {Pork}, and {Fish}.] 1. (Zo[ o]l.) Any small cetacean of the genus {Phoc[ae]na}, especially {Phoc[ae]na communis}, or {Phoc[ae]na phoc[ae]na},… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • porpoise — c.1300, from O.Fr. porpais (12c.), lit. pork fish, from porc pork (see PORK (Cf. pork)) + peis fish, from L. piscis fish. The Old French word is probably a loan translation of a Germanic word, Cf. O.N. mar svin, O.H.G. meri swin, M.Du. mereswijn …   Etymology dictionary

  • porpoise — [pôr′pəs] n. pl. porpoises or porpoise [ME porpoys < OFr porpeis, lit., swine fish < L porcus, pig (see FARROW1) + piscis, FISH] 1. any of a family (Phocoenidae) of small, usually gregarious toothed whales found in most seas, with a torpedo …   English World dictionary

  • porpoise — is pronounced paw pǝs, in preference to a second syllable as in poise …   Modern English usage

  • porpoise — ► NOUN ▪ a small toothed whale with a blunt rounded snout. ORIGIN Old French porpois, from Latin porcus pig + piscis fish …   English terms dictionary

  • Porpoise — Taxobox name = Porpoises fossil range = Mid Miocene to Recent image width = 225px image caption = Phocoena phocoena , Harbour Porpoise at the Fjord Bæltcentret in Denmark regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Mammalia ordo = Cetacea… …   Wikipedia

  • porpoise — n. 1) a school of porpoises 2) a young porpoise is a calf 3) a female porpoise is a cow 4) a male porpoise is a bull * * * [ pɔːpəs] a female porpoise is a cow a male porpoise is a bull a school of porpoises a young porpoise is a calf …   Combinatory dictionary

  • porpoise — /ˈpɔpəs / (say pawpuhs) noun (plural porpoises, porpoise) 1. any of several small, gregarious cetaceans of the genus Phocoena, usually blackish above and paler underneath, and with a blunt, rounded snout, especially the common porpoise, P.… …   Australian English dictionary

  • porpoise — I. noun Etymology: Middle English porpoys, from Anglo French porpeis, from Medieval Latin porcopiscis, from Latin porcus pig + piscis fish more at farrow, fish Date: 14th century 1. any of a family (Phocoenidae) of small gregarious toothed… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • porpoise — [14] The porpoise is etymologically the ‘pig fish’. The word comes via Old French porpois from Vulgar Latin *porcopiscis, a compound formed from porcus ‘pig’ (source of English pork) and piscis ‘fish’ (a relative of English fish) and based on the …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins


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