Definition of dolphin in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdɒlfɪn/


1A small gregarious toothed whale which typically has a beak-like snout and a curved fin on the back. Dolphins have become well known for their sociable nature and high intelligence.
  • Families Delphinidae (marine) and Platanistidae (the river dolphins): several genera and many species.
Example sentences
  • No captures of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have occurred in the US since 1989.
  • And captive bottlenose dolphins have shown themselves to be skilled at replicating computer-generated sounds.
  • We passed numerous sting rays gliding along, then a large school of spinner dolphins leaping across our bow.
2 (also dolphinfish) another term for dorado (sense 1).
Example sentences
  • The company is currently investigating two locations for the project, which will eventually produce 2000 tonnes a year of dolphinfish for the export market.
  • One approaching construction phase is an aquaculture project breeding dolphinfish.
  • The researchers studied species, ranging from sharks to dolphinfish, that represented the different stages of fish evolution.
3A bollard, pile, or buoy for mooring boats.
4A structure for protecting the pier of a bridge.


Late Middle English: from Old French dauphin, from Provençal dalfin, from Latin delphinus, from Greek delphin.

  • The name for this small whale goes back through French and Latin to Greek delphin. The form delphin existed in English from the early Middle Ages, but dolphin, from its French equivalent, appeared in the later Middle Ages and finally ousted the earlier word during the 17th century. In another guise the French word entered English as dauphin, the eldest son of the king of France. This is from the family name of the lords of the Dauphiné, an area of southeast France. In 1349 the future Charles V acquired the lands and title of the Dauphiné, and when he became king he ceded both to his eldest son, establishing the pattern of passing them to the crown prince.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: dol|phin

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