mer·​cap·​tan (ˌ)mər-ˈkap-ˌtan How to pronounce mercaptan (audio)

Examples of mercaptan in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Ethyl mercaptan, the stuff added to natural gas to make gas leaks easier to detect, has an odor detection threshold of just 1 or 2 micrograms per cubic meter. Randall Munroe, New York Times, 17 Feb. 2020 The leaks go undetected because few of the wells in the U.S. add mercaptan, a chemical that causes the distinct odor most associate with natural gas. Larry Buhl, The New Republic, 8 July 2019 The former contains cynarin, a component that can make wine taste metallic, and the latter contains mercaptans, which can make a wine smell funky. Lettie Teague, WSJ, 2 Aug. 2018 Vestal said the smell was consistent with mercaptan, the chemical that gives natural gas its pungent odor. Benjy Egel, sacbee, 15 Dec. 2017 Two key factors helped highlight the Aliso Canyon leak: One, the gas was stored at the end of the supply chain and contained mercaptans, the odorous additives used to make leak detection easier in homes. National Geographic, 13 Jan. 2016 Most could pick up the smell of methyl mercaptan, a sulfur compound released as our guts digest the vegetable. Thomas Goetz, WIRED, 17 Nov. 2007 See More

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

Word History


German, from Danish, from Medieval Latin mercurium captans, literally, seizing mercury

First Known Use

1835, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of mercaptan was in 1835

Dictionary Entries Near mercaptan

Cite this Entry

“Mercaptan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

Medical Definition


mer·​cap·​tan (ˌ)mər-ˈkap-ˌtan How to pronounce mercaptan (audio)

More from Merriam-Webster on mercaptan

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