Inflections: Plural alabastra, alabastrums.
Forms: OE ME– alabastrum, 17 alabastrus.
Etymology: < classical Latin alabaster, alabastrum box for perfume, rosebud (see alabaster n.).
The word was probably reborrowed in the late 14th cent.; there is no continuity of use with the Old English.
The form alabastrum is also occasionally attested in English contexts denoting the stone alabaster (see alabaster n. 1).
1. Ancient Hist. A vessel for holding perfume, unguents, or ointments; = alabaster n. 2, alabastron n.
OE Old Eng. Martyrol. (Julius) 22 July 156 Heo [sc. Mary Magdalene] brohte hire alabastrum, þæt is hire glæsfæt, mid deorwyrðe smyrenisse, ond þa weop heo on ðæs hælendes fet ond drigde mid hire loccum ond cyste ond smyrede mid þære deorwyrðan smyrenisse.
a1398 J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add. 27944) (1975) II. xix. 1375 Alabastrum is a vessel for oynement.
1706 Phillips's New World of Words (ed. 6), Alabastrum or Alabastrus, an Alabaster-box of Ointment.
1824 J. Elmes Gen. & Bibliogr. Dict. Fine Arts I. at Alabastrides, The alabastrum is always among the attributes of the bathing Venus.
1861 C. W. King Antique Gems (1866) 88 Little jars for holding perfumes, which were called alabastra.
1891 Amer. Jrnl. Archaeol. & Hist. Fine Arts 7 223 The central scene is the washing of the body of a dead man by two women, while a third and fourth hold a taenia and an alabastrum.
1936 N. P. Vlachos Hellas & Hellenism xi. 339 Two jugs, large stamnus (jar), flanked by an alabastrum (for ointments) and an oil flask.
2005 B. A. Kipfer Dict. Artifacts 47 In the 6th century the Greek influence changed the forms to alabastrums, amphorae, kraters, and kylikes with..birds and animals in friezes or geometric schemes.
†2. Bot. An unexpanded flower bud. Obs.
1706 Phillips's New World of Words (ed. 6), Alabastrum or Alabastrus..Among Herbalists, the Bud or green Leaves of Plants, which enclose the bottom of the Flowers, before they are spread.
1834 G. Don Gen. Syst. Gardening & Bot. III. 233/1 Alabastra of fertile flowers cylindrical.
1851 J. H. Balfour Man. Bot (ed. 2) ii. iii. 169 To the flower-bud, the name alabastrus (meaning rose-bud) is sometimes given.
1883 Amer. Naturalist 17 1112 This alabastrum is so highly developed as to have the complete advantage of the leaves.