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[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.
Also called cetaceum.
Origin of spermaceti
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English sperma cete < Medieval Latin sperma cētī sperm of whale (see sperm1, cet-)
Related forms
spermacetilike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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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
C15: from Medieval Latin sperma cētī whale's sperm, from spermasperm1 + 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
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spermaceti in Science
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 © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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