sperm whale

sperm whale

noun
a large, square-snouted whale, Physeter catodon, valued for its oil and spermaceti: now reduced in number and rare in some areas.

Origin:
1825–35

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World English Dictionary
sperm whale
 
n
Also called: cachalot a large toothed whale, Physeter catodon, having a square-shaped head and hunted for sperm oil, spermaceti, and ambergris: family Physeteridae
 
[C19: short for spermacetiwhale]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

sperm whale
1830, shortening of spermaceti whale (so called because the waxy substance in its head was mistaken for sperm), from spermaceti (1471), from M.L. sperma ceti "sperm of a whale," from L. sperma (see sperm) + cetus "large sea animal" (see
Cetacea). The substance in olden times was credited with medicinal properties, as well as being used for candle oil.
"Use ... Sperma Cete ana with redd Wyne when ye wax old." [Sir George Ripley, "The Compound of Alchemy," 1471]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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