What do you call a killer whale?
I’ve been collecting orca tales from around the world and wanted to share this list through Skaana to crowd-source the definitive collection of names and the origins of those names.
The scientific name for Killer Whale is Orcinus Orca (demon from hell). So the only reason orca sounds friendlier than killer is that most people today don’t know Latin.
The more information you can share, the better. Any corrections and clarifications would be most appreciated.
I’m hoping this post will keep growing and that we’ll regularly be adding new names from around the world — so stay tuned.
North & South America:
- Argentina: Ballena asesina. Whale assassins. (The origin: whales who kill other whales.)
- North America: Blackfish, swordfish or grampus. Grampus may come from English people hearing the French words grand poisson which means big fish. It may also come from the Latin craspicis which means fat fish.
- Kwakwakw’wakw Nation (a nation in British Columbia, Canada): Maxinuxwwhich. Side by side tribe (refers to the way these whales sometimes swim).
- Tsarlip (a nation in British Columbia, Canada) call orcas KELȽOLEMEĆEN, which means killer whales.
- The Lummi Nation of the Xwlemi Chosen language (a nation in Washington State, USA): Qw’e lh’ol’ me chen. Our relations who live under the water.
- Quebec: Epaulard. Swordfish. Espadon. Orca gladiator.
- Aleuts of Kodiak Island: Polossatik. The feared one.
Europe & Asia
- Basque fishermen used the terms ballenas assesina which means whale assassins. Some people suspect is the secret origin of the name killer whale.
- The people of Byzantium (an ancient Greek colony in what is now Istanbul) called orcas krios thalattios: sea-rams.
- Germany: Mörder-Wal. Wal means whale and Mörder means assassin, killer or murderer. Schwertwal. Sword-whale. Schwertfisch. Swordfish.
- England: Swordfish or grampus. Grampus may come from English people hearing the French words grand poisson which means big fish. It may also come from the Latin craspicis which means fat fish. Swordfish is a reference to the shape of the dorsal.
- France: Epaulard. Orque. Espaartand epèe de mer. Sword of the sea.
- Iceland: Háhyrningur. High horn. Sverdfiscur. Swordfish. Illhveli. Evil whales.
- Denmark: Hvalhund. Whale-dog. Sværdval. Sword-whale.Spækhugger. Blubber-chopper.
- Sweden: Späckhuggare. Blubber-chopper.
- Norway: Spækhugger. Blubber-chopper.
- Dutch: Zwaardwalvis. Sword whale.
- The Ainu in Japan: Repun Kamuy. God of offshore.
- Japan: Repun kamui. Master of the open seas.
- Russia: Osatka. Reference to a scythe.
- Madagascar. Tsingy. Summit or mountain (refers to the shape of the dorsal).
- Australia: Killers.
- Australia’s Yuin people: Beowas. Brothers or kin.