May 31, 2012
- oxygen (noun)
- What does it mean?
- : a reactive element that is found in water, rocks, and free as a colorless tasteless odorless gas which forms about 21 percent of the atmosphere, that is capable of combining with almost all elements, and that is necessary for life
- How do you use it?
- During photosynthesis, green plants use energy from sunlight to convert water, carbon dioxide, and minerals into oxygen and organic compounds.
- Are you a word wiz?
What do you think was happening around the time the word "oxygen" entered English?The earliest known use of "oxygen" in English dates to the late 1700s, around the time English chemist Joseph Priestley began studying the process of photosynthesis. Priestley was one of two scientists to discover independently the element oxygen. Carl Scheele of Sweden made his discovery in 1772 and Priestley followed in 1774. However, French chemist Antoine Lavoisier gave the gas its name. He said its most common characteristic was the ability to combine with other substances to form acids. Lavoisier therefore named it "oxygene" -- literally "acid producer." He formed the word by combining Greek "oxys," meaning "sharp, sour," with French "gene," meaning "producer." English quickly adopted the word as "oxygen."