Definition of turpentine in US English:



  • 1A volatile pungent oil distilled from gum turpentine or pine wood, used in mixing paints and varnishes and in liniment.

    Chemical formula C₁₀H₁₆

    • ‘Many spots will disappear if rubbed with a solution made of equal parts of boiled linseed oil, turpentine and vinegar, or with a cleaning-polishing wax.’
    • ‘It was created by adding a good deal of turpentine to the paint before it was applied as the final coat.’
    • ‘For example, toxic wastes like paint, turpentine, and other household products can be collected and redistributed at community exchanges instead of being dumped.’
    • ‘The privately-owned firm manufactures and packages an array of products including white spirit, methylated spirit, turpentine and creosote.’
    • ‘To perform this experiment a little oil of turpentine was placed at the bottom of a glass tube surrounded with boiling liquid air.’
    • ‘His emphysema prevents him from using conventional oil paints, which require turpentine and thinners, so he uses a modern, water-based alternative.’
    • ‘There is a striking difference between the smells of limonene's two isomers: (+) limonene has a fresh orange smell whereas (-) limonene smells more like turpentine.’
    • ‘When drilling in glass, always use oil of turpentine with a little camphor to lubricate the wire-drill.’
    • ‘To make this, mix equal quantities of linseed oil, white spirit or turpentine, and vinegar in a bottle and shake well.’
    • ‘Keeping with traditional methods, Hansen uses a boiled mixture of turpentine and pine tar to protect the unfinished wood.’
    • ‘They are, however, susceptible to shrinkage from exposure to solvents containing naphtha or turpentine.’
    • ‘The scent of turpentine and oil paint drifts through his open window from his neighbor's house.’
    • ‘Son of an artist, Ward was raised with the smell of oil paints and turpentine and spent much of his childhood going in the back doors of museums and galleries.’
    • ‘At times I crave the intoxicating fragrance of linseed oil and turpentine, the sound of the brush on the canvas.’
    • ‘Store all flammables (ie. Gas, turpentine, paints, propane, etc.) in an outdoor shed.’
    • ‘It is made with a series of stencils cut out of paper soaked in linseed oil, turpentine and hand-coloured.’
    • ‘When the floor is entirely dry, it is sealed, most commonly with successive applications of linseed oil and turpentine.’
    • ‘They contains a wood preservative, a small amount of wax as a water repellent, a resin or drying oil, and a solvent such as turpentine or mineral spirits.’
    • ‘The paintings have the appearance of palimpsests, with rubbed-out passages, and residues of paint and turpentine streaming down the canvas.’
    • ‘They'll sniff, claw, sample or rub aromatic wood - such as cedar or pine - and petroleum products - such as tarpaper, paint, turpentine, kerosene and charcoal lighting fluid.’
    1. 1.1 An oleoresin secreted by certain trees, especially pines, and distilled to make rosin and oil of turpentine.
      • ‘Using melted beeswax and gum turpentine, Green brings his paint to a buttery consistency and applies it with a squeegee.’
      • ‘Basically cleaning oiled wood requires you blend: 1 pint boiled linseed oil, 1 pint gum turpentine, and 6 oz. distilled white vinegar.’
  • 2Any of a number of trees which yield turpentine or a similar resin.

    a coniferous tree of the pine family (Larix, Pinus, and other genera, family Pinaceae)

    the terebinth

    • ‘Found in hot, dry places and translated under various names, the turpentine tree produces an oil resin with commercial value.’
    • ‘The area is famous for its turpentine trees, the sap of which is used in candy making, and the leaf in making tea.’


[with object]
  • Apply turpentine to.

    ‘antique turpentining equipment’
    • ‘These old sentinels have witnessed droughts, hurricanes, logging, turpentining, and development across the river.’


Middle English: from Old French ter(e)bentine, from Latin ter(e)binthina (resina) ‘(resin) of the turpentine tree’, from terebinthus (see terebinth).