arsenic

1 of 2

noun

ar·​se·​nic
ˈärs-nik,
ˈär-sə- How to pronounce arsenic (audio)
1
: a solid chemical element that is used especially in wood preservatives, alloys, and semiconductors and is extremely toxic in both pure and combined forms see Chemical Elements Table
2
: a poisonous trioxide As2O3 or As4O6 of arsenic used especially as an insecticide or weed killer

called also arsenic trioxide

arsenic

2 of 2

adjective

ar·​sen·​ic är-ˈse-nik How to pronounce arsenic (audio)
: of, relating to, or containing arsenic especially with a valence of five

Examples of arsenic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
The levels of arsenic and mercury in Beethoven’s hair were slightly elevated. Ari Daniel, NPR, 27 June 2024 Bangladesh has battled naturally occurring arsenic in its groundwater for decades, to cite another example. Bjorn Lomborg, Foreign Affairs, 15 Aug. 2017
Adjective
The team ran tests for 16 heavy metals: arsenic, barium, calcium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, mercury, nickel, lead, selenium, strontium, vanadium and zinc. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, 11 July 2024 In a recent study, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, discovered traces of arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, copper, and iron in tampons—leaving many women wondering how safe their menstrual care products really are. Meg Walters, Glamour, 11 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for arsenic 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'arsenic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English arsenek, arsenic "any of various compounds of arsenic, as yellow orpiment (arsenic trisulfide)," borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French arsenik, arsneke, borrowed from Latin arrhenicum, arsenicon, borrowed from Greek arsenikón, arrhenikón, probably borrowed from Aramaic zarnīḵ "arsenic" or a cognate Semitic word, borrowed from an unattested form in a Middle Iranian language (whence Persian zarnī, zarnīk "orpiment, arsenic"), a derivative of the word for "gold" (as Manichaean Parthian zrn /zarn/ "gold," zrnyn /zarnēn/ "golden"), alluding to the yellow color of orpiment

Note: The Greek word is assumed to have been reshaped by folk-etymological association with arsenikós, arrhenikós "male, masculine." Aramaic zarnīḵ is attested in a papyrus text (an order to repair a boat) dated January, 411 b.c., found in elephantine, Egypt (see A. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C., Oxford, 1923, pp. 88-97; B. Porten, The Elephantine Papyri in English: Three Millennia of Cross-Cultural Continuity and Change, Brill, 1996, pp. 115-22); the word is also attested in Syriac a number of centuries later. The Manichaean Parthian forms are from D. Durkin-Meisterernst, Dictionary of Manichaean Texts, vol. III, Part 1, Dictionary of Manichaean Middle Persian and Parthian, Brepols, 2004. Parthian zrn and zrnyn are continuations of an Old Iranian etymon represented by Avestan zarańiia- "gold"—see note at gold entry 1.

Adjective

from attributive or compound use of arsenic entry 1

First Known Use

Noun

1747, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1798, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of arsenic was in 1747

Dictionary Entries Near arsenic

Cite this Entry

“Arsenic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/arsenic. Accessed 22 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

arsenic

noun
ar·​se·​nic
ˈärs-nik,
-ᵊn-ik
1
: a solid poisonous element that is commonly metallic steel-gray and brittle see element
2
: a white or transparent extremely poisonous oxide of arsenic used especially in insecticides

Medical Definition

arsenic

1 of 2 noun
ar·​se·​nic ˈärs-nik, -ᵊn-ik How to pronounce arsenic (audio)
1
: a trivalent and pentavalent solid poisonous element that is commonly metallic steel-gray, crystalline, and brittle
symbol As
see Chemical Elements Table
2

arsenic

2 of 2 adjective
ar·​sen·​ic är-ˈsen-ik How to pronounce arsenic (audio)
: of, relating to, or containing arsenic especially with a valence of five

More from Merriam-Webster on arsenic

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