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Any resinous exudate or extract from conifers, especially pines; now also commonly a term for its volatile fraction, oil (or spirits) of turpentine. Semifluid mixtures of organic compounds consisting of resins dissolved in a volatile oil, turpentines can be distilled (seedistillation) into the volatile oil of turpentine and the nonvolatile rosin. The oil, a mixture of monoterpenes (seeisoprenoid), chiefly pinene, is a colourless, odorous, flammable liquid that does not mix with water but is a good solvent for many substances. Oil of turpentine is favoured over petroleum solvents as an oil-paint thinner, varnish solvent, and brush cleaner. Its chief use is now as a raw material for resins, insecticides, oil additives, and synthetic pine oil and camphor and as a solvent.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on turpentine, visit Britannica.com.