from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A colorless, flammable, pungent, highly poisonous gas, C2N2, used as a rocket propellant, an insecticide, and a chemical weapon.
  • noun A univalent CN group found in simple and complex cyanide compounds.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Chemical symbol Cy. A compound radical, CN, composed of one atom of nitrogen and one of carbon.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Chem.) A colorless, inflammable, poisonous gas, C2N2, with a peach-blossom odor, so called from its tendency to form blue compounds; obtained by heating ammonium oxalate, mercuric cyanide, etc. It is obtained in combination, forming an alkaline cyanide when nitrogen or a nitrogenous compound is strongly ignited with carbon and soda or potash. It conducts itself like a member of the halogen group of elements, and shows a tendency to form complex compounds. The name is also applied to the univalent radical, CN (the half molecule of cyanogen proper), which was one of the first compound radicals recognized.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A colourless, poisonous gas used as a rocket propellant, an insecticide and in chemical warfare.
  • noun chemistry The pseudohalogen (CN)2.
  • noun chemistry The radical -CN.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a colorless toxic gas with a pungent almond odor; has been used in chemical warfare


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Ancient Greek a dark blue substance + -gen: compare French cyanogène. So called because it produced blue dyes.



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  • "Frederick Abel, the joint-inventor of cordite, once asked himself, 'Who would not work, and even slave, for Hofmann?' Before he tackled explosives, Abel conducted an analysis of the mineral waters of Cheltenham and researched the effects of various substances on aniline (one of which was the poisonous gas cyanogen, from which his eyes suffered permanent damage)."

    Simon Garfield, Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 2000), 25.

    See also August Wilhelm von Hofmann.

    October 4, 2017