ambergris

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ambergris (ăm´bərgrēs), waxlike substance originating as a morbid concretion in the intestine of the sperm whale. Lighter than water, it is found floating on tropical seas or cast up on the shore in yellow, gray, black, or variegated masses, usually a few ounces in weight, though pieces weighing several hundred pounds have been found. Ambergris has been greatly valued from earliest times. It is now used as a fixative in perfumes. Its active principle is ambrein, a crystalline alcohol with the empirical formula C30H51OH.

See C. Kemp, Floating Gold (2012).

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ambergris a wax-like substance that originates as a secretion in the intestines of the sperm whale, found floating in tropical seas. It is soft, black, and unpleasant-smelling when fresh, slowly becoming harder, paler, and sweeter-smelling, and used in perfume manufacture.

The word comes (in late Middle English) from Old French ambre gris ‘grey amber’, as distinct from ambre jaune ‘yellow amber’ (the resin).

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am·ber·gris / ˈambərˌgris; -ˌgrē(s)/ • n. a waxlike substance that originates as a secretion in the intestines of the sperm whale, found floating in tropical seas and used in perfume manufacture.

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ambergris wax-like substance found floating in tropical seas, and in the intestines of the sperm whale. XV. — (O)F. ambre gris ‘grey amber’; this is the orig. sense of amber (cf. preco), the word gris being added to distinguish the cetaceous secretion.

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ambergris Musky, waxy solid formed in the intestine of a sperm whale. It is used in perfumes as a fixative for the scent.