phy·​tane ˈfī-ˌtān How to pronounce phytane (audio)
: an isoprenoid hydrocarbon C20H42 that is found especially associated with fossilized plant remains from the Precambrian and later eras

Word History


borrowed from German Phytan, from Greek phytón "plant" + German -an -ane — more at phyto-

Note: The German term was introduced by the German chemists Richard Willstätter (1872-1942) and Ferdinand Hocheder (1881-1945) in "Untersuchungen über Chlorophyll III. Ueber die Einwirkungen von Säuren und Alkalien auf Chlorophyll," Justus Liebig's Annalen der Chemie, Band 354 (1907), pp. 217-18.

First Known Use

circa 1907, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of phytane was circa 1907

Dictionary Entries Near phytane

Cite this Entry

“Phytane.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

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