(Science: chemistry) A white waxy substance, resembling spermaceti, tasteless and odorless, and obtained from coal tar, wood tar, petroleum, etc, by distillation. It is used as an illuminant and lubricant. It is very inert, not being acted upon by most of the strong chemical reagents. It was formerly regarded as a definite compound, but is now known to be a complex mixture of several higher hydrocarbons of the methane or marsh–gas series; hence, by extension, any substance, whether solid, liquid, or gaseous, of the same chemical series; thus coal gas and kerosene consist largely of paraffins.
In the present chemical usage this word is spelt paraffin, but in commerce it is commonly spelt paraffine. Native paraffin. See ozocerite. Paraffin series. See methane series, under Methane.
Origin: F. Paraffine, fr. L. Parum too little – affinis akin. So named in allusion to its chemical inactivity.