Definition of gutta-percha in US English:



  • A hard tough thermoplastic substance which is the coagulated latex of certain Malaysian trees. It consists chiefly of a hydrocarbon isomeric with rubber and is now used chiefly in dentistry and for electrical insulation.

    This substance is obtained from trees of the genus Palaquium, family Sapotaceae, in particular P. gutta

    • ‘We also have gutta-percha, sago, rattan, and ketchup.’
    • ‘We have Vernetta Lopez and all the other Eurasians on telly and radio, and we have the de Souzas and the D'Almeidas, who made their fortune harvesting gutta-percha which was used to insulate telegraph wires.’
    • ‘Dr. Lowell's initial attempt at the golf tee was made of gutta-percha, a material used to make false teeth and golf balls in the 19th century.’
    • ‘Lightweight wire, collapsible steel, whalebone, horsehair, and inflatable gutta-percha were used at various times to create or strengthen bustles.’
    • ‘Undaunted by the loss of hundreds of miles of wire wrapped in gutta-percha, canvas and tar, his company tried for a fourth time in 1866, constructing a further 1800 miles of cable.’


Mid 19th century: from Malay getah perca, from getah ‘gum’ + perca ‘strips of cloth’ (which it resembles), altered by association with obsolete gutta ‘gum’, from Latin gutta ‘a drop’.