[ben-zoh-in, -zoin, ben-zoh-in]
  1. Also called gum benjamin, gum benzoin. a reddish-brown, aromatic balsamic resin occurring in almondlike fragments and having a vanillalike odor, obtained from trees of the genus Styrax, especially S. benzoin, of Java, Sumatra, etc.: used in the manufacture of perfume and cosmetics and in medicine internally as an expectorant and externally as an antiseptic.
  2. Also called benjamin, benjamin-bush. any plant belonging to the genus Lindera (Benzoin), of the laurel family, including the spicebush and similar aromatic plants.

Origin of benzoin

1550–60; earlier benjoin < Middle French < Portuguese beijoim and Spanish benjuí < Arabic lubān jāwī frankincense of Java (lu- probably constructed as the definite article); z of benzoin < Italian benzoiArabic Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for gum-benjamin


  1. Also called: benjamin a gum resin containing benzoic acid, obtained from various trees of the genus Styrax, esp S. benzoin of Java and Sumatra, and used in ointments, perfume, etc
  2. a white or yellowish crystalline compound with a camphor-like odour used as an antiseptic and flavouring; 2-hydroxy-2-phenylacetophenone. Formula: C 6 H 5 CHOHCOC 6 H 5
  3. any lauraceous aromatic shrub or tree of the genus Lindera, esp L. benzoin (spicebush)

Word Origin for benzoin

C16: from French benjoin, from Old Catalan benjui, from Arabic lubān jāwī, literally: frankincense of Java
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

Word Origin and History for gum-benjamin



balsamic resin obtained from a tree (Styrax benzoin) of Indonesia, 1560s (earlier as bengewine, 1550s), from Middle French benjoin (16c.), which comes via Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian from Arabic luban jawi "incense of Java" (actually Sumatra, with which the Arabs confused it), with lu probably mistaken in Romance languages for a definite article. The English form with -z- is perhaps from influence of Italian benzoi (Venetian, 1461).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

gum-benjamin in Science


[bĕnzō-ĭn, -zoin′]
  1. A resin obtained from the bark of certain tropical Asian trees of the genus Styrax and used in making perfumes and in medicine as an antiseptic.
  2. A very toxic white or yellowish crystalline compound derived from benzaldehyde. It oxidizes easily and is used as a reducing agent. Chemical formula: C14H12O2.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.