phosphorus

noun

phos·​pho·​rus ˈfäs-f(ə-)rəs How to pronounce phosphorus (audio)
often attributive
1
: a phosphorescent substance or body
especially : one that shines or glows in the dark
2
or less commonly phosphorous : a nonmetallic element of the nitrogen family with atomic number 15 that occurs widely in combination especially as phosphates, that is essential for life in all known organisms, and that is used especially in fertilizers and organophosphorus compounds see Chemical Elements Table

Examples of phosphorus in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Residents speculated that the phosphorus was meant to displace them from the village and to clear the way for future Israeli military activity in the area. Meg Kelly, Washington Post, 11 Dec. 2023 First isolated by a German alchemist in the 1600s, phosphorus today is an essential ingredient in fertilizers; without it, millions would go hungry. Bridget Alex, Smithsonian Magazine, 7 Dec. 2023 To solve this problem, Marshall found a creative solution by giving all the figures in her sculpture that represent phosphorus a long ponytail to form the necessary fifth connection point. Eva Amsen, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 Explosive algae growth is particularly common in warm, stagnant water as well as near agricultural land where fertilizers, heavy in phosphorus, run off into nearby waters. Caitlin Looby, Journal Sentinel, 8 Jan. 2024 According to reports by Amnesty International, on October 16th Israel bombed the village with artillery shells containing white phosphorus, a violation of international humanitarian law. Rania Abouzeid, The New Yorker, 10 Nov. 2023 Beyond these basic, structural benefits, your bones are also a storage site for important minerals, including calcium and phosphorus, and bone marrow, the soft tissue that produces your body's red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Sam Walters, Discover Magazine, 3 Nov. 2023 Lebanon's official National News Agency reported that Israeli forces used phosphorus shells to attack on the outskirts of the village of Marwahin, along the border with Israel. By jared Malsin, WSJ, 9 Oct. 2023 This attack could well be a scene from Israel’s current war in Gaza, where the IDF has used tanks, airstrikes, and (according to human rights groups) white phosphorus in its attacks on Palestinian cities and refugee camps. Sarah E. Parkinson, Foreign Affairs, 14 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'phosphorus.' 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

New Latin, from Greek phōsphoros light-bearing — more at phosphor

First Known Use

1680, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of phosphorus was in 1680

Dictionary Entries Near phosphorus

Cite this Entry

“Phosphorus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phosphorus. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

phosphorus

noun
phos·​pho·​rus ˈfäs-f(ə-)rəs How to pronounce phosphorus (audio)
1
: a phosphorescent substance
especially : one that glows in the dark
2
: a nonmetallic element that occurs widely especially as phosphates see element
phosphoric
fäs-ˈfȯr-ik
-ˈfär-
adjective
phosphorous
ˈfäs-f(ə-)rəs;
fäs-ˈfōr-əs
-ˈfȯr-
adjective

Medical Definition

phosphorus

noun
phos·​pho·​rus ˈfäs-f(ə-)rəs How to pronounce phosphorus (audio)
often attributive
: a nonmetallic multivalent element that occurs widely in combined form especially as inorganic phosphates in minerals, soils, natural waters, bones, and teeth and as organic phosphates in all living cells and that exists in several allotropic forms
symbol P
see Chemical Elements Table

More from Merriam-Webster on phosphorus

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