Definitions

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

  • n. A highly reactive, poisonous, nonmetallic element occurring naturally in phosphates, especially apatite, and existing in three allotropic forms, white (or sometimes yellow), red, and black. An essential constituent of protoplasm, it is used in safety matches, pyrotechnics, incendiary shells, and fertilizers and to protect metal surfaces from corrosion. Atomic number 15; atomic weight 30.9738; melting point (white) 44.1°C; boiling point 280°C; specific gravity (white) 1.82; valence 3, 5. See Table at element.
  • n. A phosphorescent substance.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a chemical element (symbol P) with an atomic number of 15, that exists in several allotropic forms.
  • n. any substance exhibiting phosphorescence; a phosphor

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The morning star; Phosphor.
  • n. A poisonous nonmetallic element of the nitrogen group, obtained as a white, or yellowish, translucent waxy substance, having a characteristic disagreeable smell; this waxy allotropic form is also called yellow phosphorus, to distinguish it from another allotropic form, red phosphorus. It is very active chemically, must be preserved under water, and unites with oxygen even at ordinary temperatures, giving a faint glow, -- whence its name. It always occurs combined, usually in phosphates, as in the mineral apatite, in bones, etc. It is used in the composition on the tips of friction matches, and for many other purposes. The molecule contains four atoms. Symbol P. Atomic weight 31.0.
  • n. Hence, any substance which shines in the dark like phosphorus, as certain phosphorescent bodies.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. [capitalized] The morning star; Phosphor.
  • n. Chemical symbol, P; atomic weight, 31; specific gravity, 1.826. A solid non-metallic combustible substance, hitherto undecomposed, not found by itself in nature, but occurring chiefly in combination with oxygen, calcium, and magnesium.
  • n. A small bottle containing 12 grains of phosphorus melted in half an ounce of olive-oil. On being uncorked in the dark this solution emits light enough to illuminate the dial of a watch, and it will retain this property for several years if not too frequently used.
  • n. [With a pl. phosphori (-rī).] In early use, a substance which emits light otherwise than as the result of ordinary combustion.

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

  • n. a planet (usually Venus) seen just before sunrise in the eastern sky
  • n. a multivalent nonmetallic element of the nitrogen family that occurs commonly in inorganic phosphate rocks and as organic phosphates in all living cells; is highly reactive and occurs in several allotropic forms

Etymologies

Latin Phōsphorus, morning star, from Greek phōsphoros, bringing light, morning star : phōs, light; see bhā-1 in Indo-European roots + -phoros, -phorous.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin phosphorus, from Ancient Greek φωσφόρος (phōsphóros, "the bearer of light"), from φῶς (phōs, "light") + φέρω (phérō, "to bear, to carry"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • The route I'd traced yesterday led her like an aboriginal songline; it was there in front of her as clearly as if I'd left a trail of phosphorous. From "The Last Werewolf" by Glen Duncan.

    March 18, 2012

  • P.

    December 16, 2007

  • Can be spelled with the Periodic Table of Elements symbols: PHOsPHORuS

    December 12, 2006