noun, often attributive
ni·​tro·​gen | \ ˈnī-trə-jən How to pronounce nitrogen (audio) \

Definition of nitrogen

: a nonmetallic chemical element that under standard conditions is a colorless, odorless, inert gas, that constitutes 78 percent of the Earth's atmosphere, and that is used especially in the industrial synthesis of ammonia, as a component of inert atmospheres, and in liquid form as a refrigerant — see Chemical Elements Table

Examples of nitrogen in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web When heated, the material can release toxic fumes and nitrogen oxides, according to PubChem, an open database from the National Institutes of Health. David Mitchell,, "Chemical fire reported in Lake Charles following Hurricane Laura's landfall; shelter-in-place issued," 27 Aug. 2020 In the major urban centers, lowering the amounts of nitrogen oxides emitted happens to make the ozone reaction more efficient, so the remaining pollutants end up making a similar amount of ozone as before. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "In the US, switching to EVs would save lives and be worth billions," 20 Aug. 2020 Smoke from wildfires contains thousands of individual compounds, including carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. Luke Montrose, The Conversation, "What’s in that wildfire smoke, and why is it so bad for your lungs?," 20 Aug. 2020 These traffic patterns suggest that the emission of gases like carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides fell between 10 and 30 percent globally, according to a press statement. Claire Bugos, Smithsonian Magazine, "Drop in Emissions During COVID Will Have ‘No Effect’ on Climate," 12 Aug. 2020 An ammonium nitrate explosion produces massive amounts of nitrogen oxides. Gabriel Da Silva, Scientific American, "What Is Ammonium Nitrate, the Chemical that Exploded in Beirut?," 5 Aug. 2020 The color is consistent with the chemical compound and comes from nitrogen oxides, the byproduct of which gives smog its reddish-brown tones. Alex Horton, Washington Post, "Here’s what the videos of the Beirut blast tell us about the explosion," 4 Aug. 2020 Such a transition would slash vehicle emissions of nitrogen oxides by 1 million tons in 2050 (82% below a business-as-usual case) and fine particulate matter by more than 30,000 tons in 2050 (a 62% cut), the American Lung Association finds. Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, "Daily on Energy: The case for tripling federal spending on energy innovation," 15 Sep. 2020 Arctic wildfires—especially those burning in the carbon-rich zone between tundra and boreal forest—emit a wide range of pollutants including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and solid aerosol particles. The Economist, "Daily chart This year’s Arctic wildfires are the worst on record, again," 7 Sep. 2020

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.

See More

First Known Use of nitrogen

1791, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for nitrogen

French nitrogène, from nitre niter + -gène -gen

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about nitrogen

Time Traveler for nitrogen

Time Traveler

The first known use of nitrogen was in 1791

See more words from the same year

Statistics for nitrogen

Last Updated

27 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Nitrogen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for nitrogen


How to pronounce nitrogen (audio)

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 How to pronounce nitrogen (audio) \

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 How to pronounce nitrogen (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on 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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz

  • monster werewolf photo
  • Which is a synonym of werewolf?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!