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[par-uh-fin] /ˈpær ə fɪn/
a white or colorless, tasteless, odorless, water-insoluble, solid substance not easily acted upon by reagents, consisting of a mixture of hydrocarbons chiefly of the alkane series, obtained from crude petroleum: used in candles, for forming preservative coatings and seals, for waterproofing paper, etc.
  1. any member of the alkane series.
  2. one of the higher members of the alkane series, solid at ordinary temperatures, having a boiling point above 300°C, which largely constitutes the commercial form of this substance.
Also called paraffin oil. British. kerosene.
verb (used with object)
to cover or impregnate with paraffin.
Origin of paraffin
1830-40; < German < Latin par(um) barely + aff(īnis) connected + -in2; so called from its slight affinity for other substances; see affinity Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for paraffin
Historical Examples
  • The necessity for this coating of sulphur or paraffin you will understand by an experiment.

    The Story of a Tinder-box Charles Meymott Tidy
  • The hot water will heat the turpentine, and the turpentine will melt the paraffin.

    Boy Scouts Handbook Boy Scouts of America
  • Then pile your tent into a tub and pour in the turpentine and paraffin mixture.

    Boy Scouts Handbook Boy Scouts of America
  • The paraffin must be removed by toluol before proceeding further.

    Histology of the Blood Paul Ehrlich
  • After about one minute the paper may be thrust below the paraffin to soak.

    On Laboratory Arts Richard Threlfall
  • paraffin with a melting-point of 50° C. or upwards does well.

    On Laboratory Arts Richard Threlfall
  • In course of time the paraffin will be found to have separated from the glass.

    On Laboratory Arts Richard Threlfall
  • When wood is once dry, impregnating it with paraffin tends to keep it dry.

    On Laboratory Arts Richard Threlfall
  • On no account must paraffin be allowed to get into any of the baths.

    On Laboratory Arts Richard Threlfall
  • Her dress had somehow got soaked in paraffin and had then taken fire.

    A Labrador Doctor

    Wilfred Thomason Grenfell
British Dictionary definitions for paraffin


Also called paraffin oil, (esp US and Canadian) kerosene. a liquid mixture consisting mainly of alkane hydrocarbons with boiling points in the range 150°–300°C, used as an aircraft fuel, in domestic heaters, and as a solvent
another name for alkane
verb (transitive)
to treat with paraffin or paraffin wax
Word Origin
C19: from German, from Latin parum too little + affinis adjacent; so called from its chemical inertia
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for paraffin

1838, from German Paraffin, coined c.1830 by German chemist Karl von Reichenbach (1788-1869), who first obtained it as a waxy substance from wood tar, irregularly from Latin parum "not very, too little," probably related to parvus "little, small" (see parvi-) + affinis "associated with" (see affinity).

So called because paraffin is chemically not closely related to other substances. The liquid form (originally parafin oil) Reichenbach called eupion, but this was the standard meaning of paraffin in English by 1860.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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paraffin in Science
  1. A waxy, white or colorless solid mixture of hydrocarbons made from petroleum and used to make candles, wax paper, lubricants, and waterproof coatings. Also called paraffin wax.

  2. See alkane.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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