spermaceti

noun

sper·​ma·​ce·​ti ˌspər-mə-ˈsē-tē How to pronounce spermaceti (audio)
-ˈse-
: a waxy solid obtained from the oil of cetaceans and especially from a closed cavity in the heads of sperm whales and used especially formerly in ointments, cosmetics, and candles

Examples of spermaceti in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web As recently as the nineteen-seventies, General Motors used spermaceti in its transmission fluid. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 4 Sep. 2023 People harvested the baleen, blubber, bone, meat, oil, and spermaceti. Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine, 26 Oct. 2023 The animals were particularly prized for their spermaceti, the waxy oil that fills their gigantic heads. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 4 Sep. 2023 The whales’ names are derived from a semi-liquid waxy substance found in their heads — known as spermaceti — that was once used for lubrication and lamp fuel, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Saumya Gupta, Los Angeles Times, 12 June 2023 The spermaceti is full of a waxy substance that was originally thought to be the animal’s sperm (hence the name). Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 30 June 2010 The case containing the spermaceti could be used as a battering ram during fights. Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 30 June 2010 Sperm whales have a unique organ in their heads called the spermaceti, and Livyatan’s was particularly large. Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 30 June 2010 So were high-quality spermaceti candles, which slavers would trade for people in West Africa and the Caribbean. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 22 Jan. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'spermaceti.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English sperma cete, from Medieval Latin sperma ceti whale sperm

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of spermaceti was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near spermaceti

Cite this Entry

“Spermaceti.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spermaceti. Accessed 18 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

spermaceti

noun
sper·​ma·​ce·​ti ˌspər-mə-ˈsēt-ē How to pronounce spermaceti (audio)
-ˈset-
: a waxy solid obtained from the oil of some sea-dwelling mammals and especially the sperm whale and used mostly in the past in ointments, cosmetics, and candles

Medical Definition

spermaceti

noun
sper·​ma·​ce·​ti ˌspər-mə-ˈsēt-ē How to pronounce spermaceti (audio) -ˈset- How to pronounce spermaceti (audio)
: a waxy solid obtained from the oil of cetaceans and especially sperm whales and used especially formerly in pharmacology as a constituent of ointments

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