This word occurs only in the New Testament in connection with the box of “ointment of spikenard very precious.” A woman used the contents of the box to anoint the head of Jesus as he sat at supper in the house of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3; Luke 7:37).
These boxes were made from a stone found near Alabastron in Egypt, and for this reason, the Greeks gave them the name of the city where they were made. The name was then given to the stone of which they were made; and finally to all perfume vessels, of whatever material they were formed.
The woman “broke” the vessel; i.e., she broke off, as was usually done, the long and narrow neck so as to reach the contents. This stone resembles marble, but is softer in its texture, and thus very easily carved into boxes. Mark says (14:5) that this box of ointment was very costly.