[ par-uh-fin ]

  1. 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.

  2. Chemistry.

    • any member of the alkane series.

    • 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.

  1. Also called paraffin oil .British. kerosene.

verb (used with object)
  1. 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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use paraffin in a sentence

  • So I chose crude paraffin oil, the sort of oil that you can obtain in any part of Europe, almost in any part of the world.

    The Great Airship. | F. S. Brereton
  • That, then, is alcohol: a near relative of paraffin oil and also of coal gas, yet it is from neither of these that we get it.

  • I remember once a servant we had at home cleaned the inside of the coffee-pot with paraffin oil.

    The Simpkins Plot | George A. Birmingham
  • paraffin oil from Bombay can also be bought, and some of the richer men occasionally use cheap paraffin lamps made in Germany.

    At the Court of the Amr | John Alfred Gray
  • Truly, it was an uninviting place, which smelt of garlic and of the paraffin oil with which the tiled floors had been rubbed.

    Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo | William Le Queux

British Dictionary definitions for paraffin


less commonly paraffine (ˈpærəˌfiːn)

/ (ˈpærəfɪn) /

  1. 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

  2. another name for alkane

  1. to treat with paraffin or paraffin wax

Origin of paraffin

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

Scientific definitions for paraffin


[ părə-fĭn ]

  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

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