ambergris

[am-ber-grees, -gris]
noun
an opaque, ash-colored secretion of the sperm whale intestine, usually found floating on the ocean or cast ashore: used in perfumery.

Origin:
1375–1425; < Middle French ambre gris gray amber (see amber); replacing late Middle English imbergres

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World English Dictionary
ambergris (ˈæmbəˌɡriːs, -ˌɡrɪs)
 
n
a waxy substance consisting mainly of cholesterol secreted by the intestinal tract of the sperm whale and often found floating in the sea: used in the manufacture of perfumes
 
[C15: from Old French ambre gris grey amber]

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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

ambergris
late 15c., from M.Fr. ambre gris "gray amber" (see amber), "a wax-like substance of ashy colour, found floating in tropical seas, and as a morbid secretion in the intestines of the sperm-whale. Used in perfumery, and formerly in cookery" [OED]. King Charles II's favorite
dish was said to be eggs and ambergris [Macauley, "History of England"]. Fr. gris is from Frank. *gris (cf. Du. grijs, O.H.G. gris; see gray).
"Praise is like ambergris; a little whiff of it, by snatches, is very agreeable; but when a man holds a whole lump of it to his nose, it is a stink and strikes you down." [Pope, c.1720]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
ambergris   (ām'bər-grĭs', -grēs')  Pronunciation Key 
A yellow, gray, or black waxy material formed in the intestines of sperm whales that consists of a mixture of steroid derivatives. It is often found floating at sea or washed ashore, has a pleasant odor, and is added to perfumes as a fixative to slow down the rate of evaporation.
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