sper·​ma·​ce·​ti | \ ˌspər-mə-ˈsē-tē How to pronounce spermaceti (audio) , -ˈse- \

Definition of spermaceti

: 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 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 As in most parts of the world, the whales in the Gulf were hunted extensively for its spermaceti, a waxy substance contained in the whale’s massive head that was used to make candles or oil products. Dennis Pillion | Dpillion@al.com, al, 28 Nov. 2020 Sperm whales were hunted for the waxlike spermaceti found in their heads, which was used as a lubricant in looms, trains, and guns, and, most significant, as a raw material in fine candles. Amia Srinivasan, The New Yorker, 17 Aug. 2020 The Soviet military needed spermaceti, because Western embargoes cut off its access to synthetic substitutes. Amia Srinivasan, The New Yorker, 17 Aug. 2020 General Motors used spermaceti in its transmission fluid until 1973. Amia Srinivasan, The New Yorker, 17 Aug. 2020 The family of Walden author Henry David Thoreau, for instance, mixed graphite with bayberry wax or spermaceti, a wax from sperm whales commonly used to make candles at the time. Jonathan Schifman, Popular Mechanics, 16 Aug. 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'spermaceti.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of spermaceti

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for spermaceti

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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Spermaceti.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spermaceti. Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for spermaceti


sper·​ma·​ce·​ti | \ ˌspər-mə-ˈsēt-ē How to pronounce spermaceti (audio) , -ˈset- How to pronounce spermaceti (audio) \

Medical Definition of spermaceti

: a waxy solid obtained from the oil of cetaceans and especially sperm whales and used especially formerly in pharmacology as a constituent of ointments

More from Merriam-Webster on spermaceti

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about spermaceti


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