Trending: phosphine

Lookups spiked 8,000% on September 14, 2020

Why are people looking up phosphine?

Phosphine floated its way to among our top lookups, following reports that the clouds surrounding Venus contained just this.

SOMETHING DEADLY MIGHT be wafting through the clouds shrouding Venus—a smelly, flammable gas called phosphine that annihilates life-forms reliant on oxygen for survival. Ironically, though, the scientists who today announced sightings of this noxious gas in the Venusian atmosphere say it could be tantalizing—if controversial—evidence of life on the planet next door.
— Nadia Drake, National Geographic, 14 Sept. 2020

What does phosphine mean?

We define phosphine as “any of various derivatives of phosphine analogous to amines but weaker as bases” and “a colorless poisonous flammable gas PH3 that is a weaker base than ammonia and that is used especially to fumigate stored grain.”


Dr. Hofmann made a communication ‘On the Production of Mixed Amine, Phosphine, and Arsine Compounds.’
The Athenæum, 15 Sec. 1860

Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.

Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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