- A thin, volatile oil obtained by steam distillation from the wood or exuded resin of certain pine trees. Turpentine was once widely used as a paint thinner and solvent, but now is replaced by solvents derived from petroleum.
- noun a colourless petroleum-based liquid used as a thinner for paint and varnish
Origin & History of “turpentine”
Turpentine is nowadays used for an oil obtained from pine trees, but it originally denoted the ‘resin of the terebinth’, a small European tree of the sumach family. The name of the terebinth is probably of non-Indo-European origin. It was borrowed into Greek as térbinthos, which made its way into Latin as terbinthus. Its resin was called terbenthina rēsīna. The adjective terbenthina came to be used as a noun, and this passed into English via Old French terbentine.