Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A white, waxy substance consisting of various esters of fatty acids, obtained from the head of the sperm whale or another cetacean and used for making candles, ointments, and cosmetics.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A wax obtained from the head of sperm whales. It is used to make cosmetics etc.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A white waxy substance obtained from cavities in the head of the sperm whale, and used making candles, oilments, cosmetics, etc. It consists essentially of ethereal salts of palmitic acid with ethal and other hydrocarbon bases. The substance of spermaceti after the removal of certain impurities is sometimes called cetin.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A peculiar fatty substance contained in the characteristic adipose tissue of the cavity of the head of the spermwhale or cachalot, Physeter or Catodon macrocephalus, and related cetaceans.
  • Pertaining to, derived from, or composed of spermaceti or sperm.
  • Producing or yielding spermaceti, as the sperm-whales.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a white waxy substance from oil of the sperm whale

Etymologies

Middle English, from Medieval Latin spermacētī : Late Latin sperma, semen; see sperm1 + Latin cētī, genitive of cētus, whale; see Cetus.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

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  • htmltimes.com: 'The head of a Sperm Whale is one fourth the length of it's entire body, and it is filled with a waxy white substance known as spermaceti. It is used by the whales as ballasts. When the fluid was first discovered in the 1700s, it reminded whalers of sperm, hence the name Sperm Whales. To collect this liquid, the whale's head would be cut off and lashed to the side of the ship. A whaler would then bore a man-sized hole in the whale's head and climb inside, chest deep in spermaceti, and hand out buckets— often up to three tons— of the of the waxy liquid. This messy job was done because spermaceti proved to have one exceedingly valuable property. It burned brightly, and it burned evenly.'

    November 29, 2008

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    August 20, 2008