noun, often attributive \ˈkär-bən\

: a chemical element that forms diamonds and coal and that is found in petroleum and in all living plants and animals

Full Definition of CARBON

:  a nonmetallic chiefly tetravalent element found native (as in diamond and graphite) or as a constituent of coal, petroleum, and asphalt, of limestone and other carbonates, and of organic compounds or obtained artificially in varying degrees of purity especially as carbon black, lampblack, activated carbon, charcoal, and coke — see element table
:  a carbon rod used in an arc lamp
a :  a sheet of carbon paper
b :  carbon copy

Examples of CARBON

  1. a carbon of the document
  2. <this new digital camera is a carbon of a well-known model costing almost twice as much>

Origin of CARBON

French carbone, from Latin carbon-, carbo ember, charcoal
First Known Use: 1789

Other Biochemistry Terms

bile, biodegradable, capsaicin, keratin, metabolism

Rhymes with CARBON


noun , often attrib \ˈkär-bən\   (Medical Dictionary)

Medical Definition of CARBON

: a nonmetallic element found native (as in diamonds and graphite) or as a constituent of coal, petroleum, asphalt, limestone, and organic compounds or obtained artificially (as in activated charcoal)—symbol Celsius; see element table


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Nonmetallic chemical element, chemical symbol C, atomic number 6. The usual stable isotope is carbon-12; carbon-13, another stable isotope, makes up 1% of natural carbon. Carbon-14 is the most stable and best known of five radioactive isotopes (see radioactivity); its half-life of approximately 5,730 years makes it useful in carbon-14 dating and radiolabeling of research compounds. Carbon occurs in four known allotropes: diamond, graphite, carbon black (amorphous carbon including coal, coke, and charcoal), and hollow cage molecules called fullerenes. Carbon forms more compounds than all other elements combined; several million carbon compounds are known. Each carbon atom forms four bonds (four single bonds, two single and one double bond, two double bonds, or one single and one triple bond) with up to four other atoms. Multitudes of chain, branched, ring, and three-dimensional structures can occur. The study of these carbon compounds and their properties and reactions is organic chemistry (see organic compound). With hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and a few other elements whose small amounts belie their important roles, carbon forms the compounds that make up all living things: proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids. Biochemistry is the study of how those compounds are synthesized and broken down and how they associate with each other in living organisms. Organisms consume carbon and return it to the environment in the carbon cycle. Carbon dioxide, produced when carbon is burned and from biological processes, makes up about 0.03% of the air, and carbon occurs in Earth's crust as carbonate rocks and the hydrocarbons in coal, petroleum, and natural gas. The oceans contain large amounts of dissolved carbon dioxide and carbonates.


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