[ am-ber-grees, -gris ]

  1. an opaque, ash-colored secretion of the sperm whale intestine, usually found floating on the ocean or cast ashore: used in perfumery.

Origin of ambergris

1375–1425; <Middle French ambre gris gray amber (see amber); replacing late Middle English imbergres

Words Nearby ambergris Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use ambergris in a sentence

  • Oriental ambergris to put in the kings food and in his claret was another expensive item.

    Medival Byways | Louis F. Salzmann
  • It may be noted that both the Malays and the Chinese attribute the origin of ambergris to either a sea-dragon or a sea-serpent.

    Mythical Monsters | Charles Gould
  • Bring wine and essences, electuaries and ambergris, if the refectioner have any with him.

    Wager of Battle | Henry William Herbert
  • Turn a pint of alcohol slowly on to an ounce and a half of the oil of lavender, two drachms of ambergris.

  • Swimming out in the salt water, the mermaids would go in quest of pearls, coral, ambergris and other pretty things.

    Dutch Fairy Tales for Young Folks | William Elliot Griffis

British Dictionary definitions for ambergris


/ (ˈæmbəˌɡriːs, -ˌɡrɪs) /

  1. a waxy substance consisting mainly of cholesterol secreted by the intestinal tract of the sperm whale and often found floating in the sea: used in the manufacture of perfumes

Origin of ambergris

C15: from Old French ambre gris grey amber

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

Scientific definitions for ambergris


[ ămbər-grĭs′, -grēs′ ]

  1. A yellow, gray, or black waxy material formed in the intestines of sperm whales that consists of a mixture of steroid derivatives. It is often found floating at sea or washed ashore, has a pleasant odor, and is added to perfumes as a fixative to slow down the rate of evaporation.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.