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

  • noun Any of several highly volatile, flammable liquid mixtures of hydrocarbons distilled from petroleum, coal tar, and natural gas and used as fuel, as solvents, and in making various chemicals.
  • noun Obsolete Petroleum.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In ancient writers, a more fluid and volatile variety of asphalt or bitumen.
  • noun In modern use, an artificial volatile colorless liquid obtained from petroleum.

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

  • noun (Chem.) The complex mixture of volatile, liquid, inflammable hydrocarbons, occurring naturally, and usually called crude petroleum, mineral oil, or rock oil.
  • noun (Chem.) One of several volatile inflammable liquids obtained by the distillation of certain carbonaceous materials and resembling the naphtha from petroleum
  • noun (Old Chem.) common ethyl ether; -- formerly called sulphuric ether. See Ether.

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

  • noun dated Naturally-occurring liquid petroleum.
  • noun Any of a wide variety of aliphatic or aromatic liquid hydrocarbon mixtures distilled from petroleum or coal tar, especially as used in solvents or petrol.

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

  • noun any of various volatile flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixtures; used chiefly as solvents


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Latin, from Greek, liquid bitumen, of Semitic origin; see npṭ in Semitic roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin naphtha, from Ancient Greek νάφθα (náphtha), ultimately from Old Persian 𐎴𐎳𐎫 (naft). The Greek mediation is reflected in the spelling – ‘ph’ and ‘th’ (from ‘φ’ and ‘θ’).



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  • Latin, from Greek, of Iranian origin; akin to Avestan napta moist, Persian neft naphtha; from Persian naft "naphtha". perhaps akin to Greek nephos cloud, mist. petroleum especially when occurring in any of its more volatile varieties.Here go the moist debates again!

    August 31, 2009

  • "Molecules such as the solvent naphtha had already been isolated in coal-tar in the 1820s, but the great challenge was now to reveal its constituent atoms, and to show how these may be modified to form other compounds. Naphtha was found to contain benzene, and, by a painstaking process of fractional distillation, this in turn was found to contain such materials as toluidine and aniline. The chemists often knew the atomic combination of each molecule -- how many elements of carbon, how many of oxygen or hydrogen -- but not how they fitted together."

    Simon Garfield, Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 2000), 24-25.

    October 2, 2017