toxicity

noun
tox·​ic·​i·​ty | \ täk-ˈsi-sə-tē \
plural toxicities

Definition of toxicity

: the quality or state of being toxic: such as
a : the quality, state, or relative degree of being poisonous measuring the toxicity level of the soil The toxicity of some chemical agents degrades significantly over time, so it is unclear how lethal the stockpiles are.— David S. Cloud Administering a cocktail of drugs would dilute the toxicities of the different drugs and minimize the development of viral resistance to them.— Rudy M. Baum and Ron Dagani
b : an extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful quality In the past few days, I've tuned in to C-SPAN to watch a number of the televised Senate debates, which illustrate all too vividly the toxicity of an uncivil tongue.— Connie Schultz In much of the ensuing commentary, court watchers worried that the justices' soaring rates of written dissents, nasty and personal attacks and scathing remarks read aloud from the bench bespeak a new toxicity in Supreme Court discourse.— Dahlia Lithwick

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Did You Know?

Toxicity is often a relative thing; in the words of a famous old saying, "The dose makes the poison". Thus, it's possible to die from drinking too much water, and lives have been saved by tiny doses of arsenic. Even though botulinum toxin is the most toxic substance known, it's the basic ingredient in Botox, which is injected into the face to get rid of wrinkles. With some poisons, mere skin contact can be lethal; others are lethal when breathed into the lungs in microscopic amounts. To determine if a chemical will be officially called a poison, researchers often use the "LD50" test: If 50 milligrams of the substance for every kilogram of an animal's body weight results in the death of 50% of test animals, the chemical is a poison. But there are problems with such tests, and toxicity remains a very individual concept.

Examples of toxicity in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

By all measures, glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, according to the EPA, has low toxicity for humans. Yvette D'entremont, SELF, "Should You Worry About Herbicides In Your Food?," 10 Oct. 2018 However, given mercury's toxicity—and, again, the lack of proper technology—the government has stopped excavation work in the area. Hanya Yanagihara, Condé Nast Traveler, "50 Things to Do in Asia Before You Die," 24 Sep. 2018 The supposed toxicity of this Christmas classic is nothing more than an old wives' tale, Dr. Wismer says. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "5 Holiday Plants That Are Way More Toxic Than Poinsettias to Cats and Dogs," 14 Dec. 2018 And there has been little research on safety, toxicity and allergies associated with insect consumption. The Economist, "The future of food, served up right here in augmented reality," 7 July 2018 Once toxicity and detonation tests are conducted, if the results are promising, the material will go through a whole new set of tests to incorporate it into something resembling an artillery shell. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "So Long TNT, There's a New Explosive in Town," 2 July 2018 Between 60% and 80% of beta-thalassemia patients require regular red blood cell transfusions, which have serious side effects such as iron toxicity. Sarah Toy, WSJ, "Gene Therapy Shows Promise in Patients with a Blood Disorder," 19 Apr. 2018 However this is not the form of the element that causes mercury toxicity. Grace Donnelly, Fortune, "The History of the Flu Shot and Some Common Misconceptions," 19 Jan. 2018 The toxicity in the Crellin household is no longer figurative. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Sharp Objects Episode 7: Adora Shows Her True Colors," 20 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'toxicity.' 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 toxicity

1879, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

18 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for toxicity

The first known use of toxicity was in 1879

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More Definitions for toxicity

toxicity

noun
tox·​ic·​i·​ty | \ täk-ˈsis-ət-ē \
plural toxicities

Medical Definition of toxicity

: the quality, state, or relative degree of being toxic or poisonous

More from Merriam-Webster on toxicity

Spanish Central: Translation of toxicity

Nglish: Translation of toxicity for Spanish Speakers

Comments on toxicity

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