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From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Baleen \Ba*leen"\ (b[.a]*l[=e]n"), n. [F. baleine whale and whalebone, L. balaena a whale; cf. Gr. fa`laina. ] (Zool. & Com.) Plates or blades of "whalebone," from two to twelve feet long, and sometimes a foot wide, which in certain whales (Bal[ae]noidea) are attached side by side along the upper jaw, and form a fringelike sieve by which the food is retained in the mouth. [1913 Webster]