• synonyms


[spur-muh-set-ee, -see-tee]
noun Chemistry, Pharmacology.
  1. 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.
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Origin of spermaceti

1425–75; late Middle English sperma cete < Medieval Latin sperma cētī sperm of whale (see sperm1, cet-)
Also called cetaceum.
Related formssper·ma·cet·i·like, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for spermaceti

Historical Examples of spermaceti

  • Spermaceti ointment is simple and well adapted for the purpose.

    The Ladies Book of Useful Information


  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for spermaceti


  1. a white waxy substance obtained from oil from the head of the sperm whale: used in cosmetics, candles, ointments, etc
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Word Origin for spermaceti

C15: from Medieval Latin sperma cētī whale's sperm, from sperma sperm 1 + 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

spermaceti in Science


  1. 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.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.