ambergris


ambergris
\ \ [15] The original term for ambergris (a waxy material from the stomach of the sperm whale) was amber. But as confusion began to arise between the two substances amber and ambergris, amber came to be used for both in all the languages that had borrowed it from Arabic, thus compounding the bewilderment. The French solution was to differentiate ambergris as ambre gris, literally ‘grey amber’, and this eventually became the standard English term. (Later on, the contrastive term ambre jauneyellow amber’ was coined for ‘amber’ in French.) Uncertainty over the identity of the second element, -gris, has led to some fanciful reformulations of the word. In the 17th century, many people thought ambergris came from Greece – hence spellings such as amber-degrece and amber-greece. And until comparatively recently its somewhat greasy consistency encouraged the spelling ambergrease.
\ \ Cf.AMBER

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ambergris — (Ambra grisea, Ambre gris, ambergrease, or grey amber) is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. Ambergris has a peculiar sweet, earthy odor (similar to isopropyl… …   Wikipedia

  • ambergris — (n.) early 15c., from M.Fr. ambre gris gray amber (see AMBER (Cf. amber)), a wax like substance of ashy colour, found floating in tropical seas, and as a morbid secretion in the intestines of the sperm whale. Used in perfumery, and formerly in… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Ambergris — Am ber*gris ([a^]m b[ e]r*gr[=e]s), n. [F. ambre gris, i. e., gray amber; F. gris gray, which is of German origin: cf. OS. gr[^i]s, G. greis, gray haired. See {Amber}.] A substance of the consistence of wax, found floating in the Indian Ocean and …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ambergris — ► NOUN ▪ a wax like substance secreted from the intestines of the sperm whale, found floating in tropical seas and used in perfume manufacture. ORIGIN from Old French ambre gris grey amber …   English terms dictionary

  • ambergris — [am′bərgrēs΄, am′bərgris΄] n. [ME ambregris < OFr ambre gris < ambre (see AMBER) + gris < Frank * grīs, akin to MHG, OS, Du gris, gray] a grayish, waxy substance from the intestines of sperm whales, often found floating in tropical seas …   English World dictionary

  • ambergris — /am beuhr grees , gris/, n. an opaque, ash colored secretion of the sperm whale intestine, usually found floating on the ocean or cast ashore: used in perfumery. [1375 1425; < MF ambre gris gray amber (see AMBER); r. late ME imbergres] * * * Waxy …   Universalium

  • ambergris — [15] The original term for ambergris (a waxy material from the stomach of the sperm whale) was amber. But as confusion began to arise between the two substances amber and ambergris, amber came to be used for both in all the languages that had… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • ambergris — noun A solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish color, produced in the intestines of the sperm whale. It is used in perfumes. And as for the other whale, why, I’ll agree to get more oil by chopping up and trying out these three …   Wiktionary

  • ambergris — [[t]æ̱mbə(r)griːs[/t]] N UNCOUNT Ambergris is a waxy substance produced by sperm whales. It is used to make some perfumes …   English dictionary

  • ambergris — ambra statusas T sritis chemija apibrėžtis Vaškinė medžiaga, susidaranti kašaloto žarnyne. atitikmenys: angl. ambergris rus. амбра …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas


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