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odorous substance secreted by an abdominal gland of the musk deermusk deer,
small, antlerless deer, Moschus moschiferus, found in wet mountain forests from Siberia and Korea to the Himalayas. In summer it ranges up to 8,000 ft (2,400 m). It is from 20 to 24 in.
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, used in perfumeperfume,
aroma produced by the essential oils of plants and by synthetic aromatics. The burning of incense that accompanied the religious rites of ancient China, Palestine, and Egypt led gradually to the personal use of perfume.
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 as a scent and fixative. The gland, found only in males, grows to the size of a hen's egg; the secretion is reddish-brown, with a honeylike consistency and a strong odor that may function in the animal as a sexual attractant. After the pouch is cut the secretion hardens, assumes a blackish-brown color, and when dry becomes granular. In commerce the musk pouches are called "musk pods," and the dried secretion "musk grains." Usually a tincture of alcohol is made from the grains; this is then added to expensive perfumes. The chief constituent that gives musk its odor is the organic compound muscone. Musklike substances are also obtained from the muskratmuskrat,
North American aquatic rodent. The common muskrats, species of the genus Ondatra, are sometimes called by their Native American name, musquash. They are found in marshes, quiet streams, and ponds through most of North America N of Mexico, but are absent from the
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 and the civet. Some plants yield oils which resemble musk; these include the seed of ambrette (Hibiscus abelmoschos) and the sumbul root (Ferula sumbul) of central Asia and Turkistan. A number of synthetic musklike products are now also used.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a fragrant substance of plant or animal origin with valuable properties as a perfume and a perfume fixative.

Animal musk, secreted by the musk glands of some mammals, such as the musk deer, musk-ox and desman, is a grainy or greasy brown substance with an odor characteristic of the animal species from which it originates. Macrocyclic ketones constitute the aromatic principle of animal musk. Among others, these include muscone (about 1 percent in musk from the glands of musk deer), civetone (from the glands of a civet cat), and dihy-drocivetone (from the glands of a muskrat). Animal musk also consists of proteins, fats, cholesterol, and a variety of salts. Musk in animals functions as a chemical signal to stake out a territory against other individuals of the same species. In aquatic mammals, for example, the desman, muskrat, and beaver, musk also serves as a grease that prevents the fur from becoming soaked. Some macrocyclic lactones, such as tibetolide (present in the roots of garden angelica) and ambrettolide (in the oil of hibiscus seeds), constitute the aromatic principle of plant musk.

Many synthetic substances with different chemical structures have the odor of musk. They are used in industry instead of the costly and scarce natural musks. These include some macrocyclic lactones and oxalactones, nitromusks (musk-ketone, musk ambrette, musk-xylol), some substituted tetrahydronaphthalenes (for example, versalide), and some indan derivatives, such as phantolid.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Any of various strong-smelling substances obtained from the musk glands of musk deer or similar animals; used in the form of a tincture as a fixative for perfume.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


traditional symbol of weakness. [Plant Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 176]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a strong-smelling glandular secretion of the male musk deer, used in perfumery
2. a similar substance produced by certain other animals, such as the civet and otter, or manufactured synthetically


any of several scrophulariaceous plants of the genus Mimulus, esp the North American M. moschatus, which has yellow flowers and was formerly cultivated for its musky scent
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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