lith·​o·​pone ˈli-thə-ˌpōn How to pronounce lithopone (audio)
: a white pigment consisting essentially of zinc sulfide and barium sulfate

Word History


borrowed from French (originally as adjective following blanc or céruse "white lead"), from litho- litho- + -pone, of uncertain meaning and origin

Note: The word lithopone first surfaces, as far as is known, in a patent application by the Belgian pigment manufacturer François Victor Leger in 1869: "Déscription … d'une brevet d'invention pour un nouveau moyen de traiter le sulfate de baryte, afin d'obtenir un blanc, propre à la peinture, dit blanc ou céruse lithopone" ("Description … of a patent for a new means of treating the sulfate of barite in order to obtain a white pigment suitable for painting, called lithopone white [lead] or ceruse"). (For details see H. Volquartz, "Zur Frühgeschichte der Lithoponeweiss," article reprinted in the journal Fette - Seifen - Anstrichmittel, 56. Jahrgang, No. 2, 1954, pp. 123-24.) The second element of the compound has been taken as Greek pónos "labor, toil, grief," though this makes little sense. A pigment made from barium sulfate and zinc sulfide was patented in France earlier, in 1850 and 1851, by the French chemist and politician Guillaume Ferdinand de Douhet (1811-81), but de Douhet is not known to have used the word lithopone.

First Known Use

circa 1884, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of lithopone was circa 1884

Dictionary Entries Near lithopone

Cite this Entry

“Lithopone.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

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