noun, often attributive
ni·tro·gen | \ˈnī-trə-jən \

Definition of nitrogen 

: a colorless tasteless odorless element that as a diatomic gas is relatively inert and constitutes 78 percent of the atmosphere and that is a constituent of organic compounds found in all living tissues — see Chemical Elements Table

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Other Words from nitrogen

nitrogenous \nī-ˈträ-jə-nəs \ adjective

Examples of nitrogen in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

More than half of the nitrogen in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, comes from agricultural runoff from the 31 states and two Canadian provinces. Emily Hopkins, Indianapolis Star, "In Hendricks County, Ronald Reagan Parkway extension pits science against growth," 9 July 2018 Other libraries put their brittle treasures into a temporary deep freeze or into chambers that suck out oxygen and replace it with nitrogen to kill any bugs. Patricia Kowsmann, WSJ, "The Bats Help Preserve Old Books But They Drive Librarians, Well, Batty," 17 June 2018 The mid-April floods sent brown mud and water cascading into these fields. The muck is packed with nitrogen, so it’s as though a big kick of fertilizer walloped taro patches. Washington Post, "Shortage of key Hawaii crop expected after rains swamp farms," 28 May 2018 Many clinics still use older cryopreservation tanks that must be filled with liquid nitrogen by hand, and there is no standard set-up for alarms., "Patients mobilize after malfunctions at fertility clinics damage thousands of eggs, embryos," 13 Mar. 2018 But there are even windier ways the lack of nitrogen can impact the reefs. Matt Simon, WIRED, "Rats! Coral Reefs Aren't Getting the Bird Poop They Need," 11 July 2018 This is a sign of not weeding the stuff out of the garden last year and using too much chemical nitrogen fertilizers. Jeff Lowenfels, Anchorage Daily News, "It’s been a cool spring, but don’t be fooled. Now is the time to put plants in the ground.," 31 May 2018 Use a high-nitrogen, water-soluble plant food to keep them growing actively. Neil Sperry, San Antonio Express-News, "What’s the story with morning glories not blooming?," 29 June 2018 Just like a balloon filled with lightweight helium must rise in heavier oxygen-nitrogen air, so too must the swirl of bubbles in your beer move toward the top of the glass. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, "Why Do Some Beer Bubbles Appear to Defy Physics? Science Finally Has an Answer," 16 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nitrogen.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of nitrogen

1791, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for nitrogen

French nitrogène, from nitre niter + -gène -gen

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Statistics for nitrogen

Last Updated

22 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for nitrogen

The first known use of nitrogen was in 1791

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More Definitions for nitrogen



English Language Learners Definition of nitrogen

: a chemical that has no color or smell and that makes up a large part of the atmosphere


ni·tro·gen | \ˈnī-trə-jən \

Kids Definition of nitrogen

: a colorless odorless gaseous chemical element that makes up 78 percent of the atmosphere and forms a part of all living tissues


ni·tro·gen | \ˈnī-trə-jən \

Medical Definition of nitrogen 

: a common nonmetallic element that in the free form is normally a colorless odorless tasteless insoluble inert diatomic gas comprising 78 percent of the atmosphere by volume and that in the combined form is a constituent of biologically important compounds (as proteins, nucleic acids, and alkaloids) and hence of all living cells as well as of industrially important substances (as cyanides, fertilizers, dyes, and antibiotics) symbol N — see Chemical Elements Table

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More from Merriam-Webster on nitrogen

Spanish Central: Translation of nitrogen

Nglish: Translation of nitrogen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of nitrogen for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about nitrogen

Comments on nitrogen

What made you want to look up nitrogen? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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