Gypsum is a very soft sulfate mineral
Sulfate mineral
The sulfate minerals are a class of minerals which include the sulfate ion within their structure. The sulfate minerals occur commonly in primary evaporite depositional environments, as gangue minerals in hydrothermal veins and as secondary minerals in the oxidizing zone of sulfide mineral deposits...

 composed of calcium sulfate
Calcium sulfate
Calcium sulfate is a common laboratory and industrial chemical. In the form of γ-anhydrite , it is used as a desiccant. It is also used as a coagulant in products like tofu. In the natural state, unrefined calcium sulfate is a translucent, crystalline white rock...

 dihydrate, with the chemical formula
Chemical formula
A chemical formula or molecular formula is a way of expressing information about the atoms that constitute a particular chemical compound....

 CaSO4·2H2O. It is found in alabaster
Alabaster is a name applied to varieties of two distinct minerals, when used as a material: gypsum and calcite . The former is the alabaster of the present day; generally, the latter is the alabaster of the ancients...

, a decorative stone used in Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

. It is the second softest mineral on the Mohs Hardness Scale. It forms as an evaporite
Evaporite is a name for a water-soluble mineral sediment that result from concentration and crystallization by evaporation from an aqueous solution. There are two types of evaporate deposits, marine which can also be described as ocean deposits, and non-marine which are found in standing bodies of...

 mineral and as a hydration product of anhydrite
Anhydrite is a mineral – anhydrous calcium sulfate, CaSO4. It is in the orthorhombic crystal system, with three directions of perfect cleavage parallel to the three planes of symmetry. It is not isomorphous with the orthorhombic barium and strontium sulfates, as might be expected from the...

The word gypsum is derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 word γύψος gypsos, "chalk" or "plaster". Because the gypsum from the quarries
A quarry is a type of open-pit mine from which rock or minerals are extracted. Quarries are generally used for extracting building materials, such as dimension stone, construction aggregate, riprap, sand, and gravel. They are often collocated with concrete and asphalt plants due to the requirement...

 of the Montmartre
Montmartre is a hill which is 130 metres high, giving its name to the surrounding district, in the north of Paris in the 18th arrondissement, a part of the Right Bank. Montmartre is primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Cœur on its summit and as a nightclub district...

 district of Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 has long furnished burnt gypsum used for various purposes, this material has been called plaster of Paris.

Gypsum was known in Old English as spærstān, spear stone, referring to its crystalline projections.