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[spur-muh-set-ee, -see-tee] /ˌspɜr məˈsɛt i, -ˈsi ti/
noun, Chemistry, Pharmacology.
a pearly white, waxy, translucent solid, obtained from the oil in the head of the sperm whale: used chiefly in cosmetics and candles, and as an emollient.
Also called cetaceum.
Origin of spermaceti
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English sperma cete < Medieval Latin sperma cētī sperm of whale (see sperm1, cet-)
Related forms
spermacetilike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for spermaceti
Historical Examples
  • spermaceti ointment is simple and well adapted for the purpose.

  • spermaceti is pulverised as camphor, by the aid of a few drops of spirit.

  • spermaceti ointment is simple and well adapted to this purpose.

    Our Deportment

    John H. Young
  • spermaceti is constantly added to the white wax of commerce, to improve its colour.

  • spermaceti experimented with in the same manner gave striking results.

  • spermaceti candles of definite size form the measure of electric light, giving rise to the phrase "of so many candle-power."

    The New North Agnes Deans Cameron
  • spermaceti, the solid waxy body carried round in the Cachalot's head in solution, is a valuable whale-product.

    The New North Agnes Deans Cameron
  • spermaceti is identical in its physical properties with paraffine, and the latter is now almost universally its substitute.

    Commercial Geography

    Jacques W. Redway
  • Simmer the whole together, and when almost boiled enough, add an ounce of spermaceti.

    The Toilet of Flora Pierre-Joseph Buc'hoz
  • spermaceti is a perfectly definite chemical body, which can be recognised without chance of error.

    More Science From an Easy Chair

    Sir E. Ray (Edwin Ray) Lankester
British Dictionary definitions for spermaceti


/ˌspɜːməˈsɛtɪ; -ˈsiːtɪ/
a white waxy substance obtained from oil from the head of the sperm whale: used in cosmetics, candles, ointments, etc
Word Origin
C15: from Medieval Latin sperma cētī whale's sperm, from spermasperm1 + Latin cētus whale, from Greek kētos
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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spermaceti in Science
A white, waxy substance that is obtained from the head of the sperm whale and sometimes other whales, porpoises, and dolphins, and was once widely used to make candles, ointments, and cosmetics. Spermaceti is a liquid at body temperature and consists primarily of fatty alcohols and esters of fatty acids. Spermaceti is produced by the spermaceti organ, a huge melon-shaped sac that may function as a battering ram in aggressive behavior between males.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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