[ 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.

Origin of spermaceti

1425–75; late Middle English sperma cete < Medieval Latin sperma cētī sperm of whale (see sperm1, cet-)
Also called cetaceum.

Related forms

sper·ma·cet·i·like, adjective
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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 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

Science definitions for spermaceti


[ spûr′mə-sētē ]

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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.