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an opaque, ash-colored secretion of the sperm whale intestine, usually found floating on the ocean or cast ashore: used in perfumery.
Historical Examples

These Portuguese exchanged a lump of ambergris, or what was supposed to be ambergris, for old clothes.
History of the Buccaneers of America James Burney

The hatches were off her hold and our sealskins and our ambergris gone from below.
Sonnie-Boy’s People James B. Connolly

A drop or two (not more) of essence of ambergris or vanilla improves it.
Cooley’s Practical Receipts, Volume II Arnold Cooley

We boarded Red Dick’s steamer, and there were our sealskins and ambergris.
Sonnie-Boy’s People James B. Connolly

We got two or three of these horns, and a reasonable quantity of ambergris.
A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol. VIII. Robert Kerr

The Spaniards flavour it with vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon, and frequently scent it with musk and ambergris.
Cooley’s Cyclopdia of Practical Receipts and Collateral Information in the Arts, Manufactures, Professions, and Trades…, Sixth Edition, Volume I Arnold Cooley

ambergris is believed to be the product of a sort of ulcer or cancer which has formed in the bowels of a whale.
The Search for the Silver City James Otis

“They are after that ambergris,” said Moran between her teeth.
Moran of the Lady Letty Frank Norris

“But the ambergris is mine—is mine,” she answered, never taking her eyes from the confronting coolies.
Moran of the Lady Letty Frank Norris

A treasure of gold, a mountain of ambergris, a bushel of pearls from Oman?
Khaled, A Tale of Arabia F. Marion Crawford

a waxy substance consisting mainly of cholesterol secreted by the intestinal tract of the sperm whale and often found floating in the sea: used in the manufacture of perfumes

early 15c., from Middle French ambre gris “gray amber” (see amber), “a wax-like substance of ashy colour, found floating in tropical seas, a morbid secretion from the intestines of the sperm-whale. Used in perfumery, and formerly in cookery” [OED]. King Charles II’s favorite dish was said to be eggs and ambergris [Macauley, “History of England”]. French gris is from Frankish *gris or some other Germanic source (cf. Dutch grijs, Old High German gris; see gray).

Praise is like ambergris; a little whiff of it, by snatches, is very agreeable; but when a man holds a whole lump of it to his nose, it is a stink and strikes you down. [Pope, c.1720]

(ām’bər-grĭs’, -grēs’)
A yellow, gray, or black waxy material formed in the intestines of sperm whales that consists of a mixture of steroid derivatives. It is often found floating at sea or washed ashore, has a pleasant odor, and is added to perfumes as a fixative to slow down the rate of evaporation.


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