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[n. ahr-suh-nik, ahrs-nik; adj. ahr-sen-ik] /n. ˈɑr sə nɪk, ˈɑrs nɪk; adj. ɑrˈsɛn ɪk/
a grayish-white element having a metallic luster, vaporizing when heated, and forming poisonous compounds. Symbol: As; atomic weight: 74.92; atomic number: 33.
a mineral, the native element, occurring in white or gray masses.
adjective, arsenic
of or containing arsenic, especially in the pentavalent state.
1350-1400; Middle English arsenicum < Latin < Greek arsenikón orpiment, noun use of neuter of arsenikós virile (ársēn male, strong + -ikos -ic), probably alteration of Oriental word (perhaps < *arznig, metathetic variant of Syriac zarnig) by folk etymology
Related forms
nonarsenic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for arsenic
  • Around the corner sits the dispensary where she first encountered an array of lethal poisons, including arsenic and strychnine.
  • Mining exposed the sulfides and eventually made the tailings as acidic as battery acid and full of heavy metals such as arsenic.
  • It was also applied to those who sold arsenic as a medicine.
  • The films contain gallium arsenide, a mixture of the elements gallium and arsenic that acts as a semiconductor in solar cells.
  • Determining a new federal standard for acceptable levels of arsenic in drinking water was no easy task.
  • The amount of arsenic present varies with the river's flow rate.
  • Microbes thriving in salty, alkali waters containing arsenic.
  • Since arsenic is chemically similar to phosphorous, phosphate rock contains arsenic.
  • Plus, pentavalent arsenic is much easier to reduce than pentavalent phosphorus, resulting in oxidative damage.
  • So, let's make some pills of pure arsenic or cyanide and challenge them to swallow them.
British Dictionary definitions for arsenic


noun (ˈɑːsnɪk)
a toxic metalloid element, existing in several allotropic forms, that occurs principally in realgar and orpiment and as the free element. It is used in transistors, lead-based alloys, and high-temperature brasses. Symbol: As; atomic no: 33; atomic wt: 74.92159; valency: –3, 0, +3, or +5; relative density: 5.73 (grey); melting pt: 817°C at a pressure of 3MN/m² (grey); sublimes at 613°C (grey)
a nontechnical name for arsenic trioxide
adjective (ɑːˈsɛnɪk)
of or containing arsenic, esp in the pentavalent state
Word Origin
C14: from Latin arsenicum, from Greek arsenikon yellow orpiment, from Syriac zarnīg (influenced in form by Greek arsenikos virile)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for arsenic

late 14c., from Old French arsenic, from Latin arsenicum, from late Greek arsenikon "arsenic" (Dioscorides; Aristotle has it as sandarake), adapted from Syriac (al) zarniqa "arsenic," from Middle Persian zarnik "gold-colored" (arsenic trisulphide has a lemon-yellow color), from Old Iranian *zarna- "golden," from PIE root *ghel- "to shine" (see Chloe).

The form of the Greek word is folk etymology, literally "masculine," from arsen "male, strong, virile" (cf. arseno-koites "lying with men" in New Testament) supposedly in reference to the powerful properties of the substance. The mineral (as opposed to the element) is properly orpiment, from Latin auri pigmentum, so called because it was used to make golden dyes.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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arsenic in Medicine

arsenic ar·se·nic (är'sə-nĭk)
Symbol As
A poisonous metallic element having three allotropes, of which the gray form is the most common. Arsenic compounds are used in insecticides and solid-state doping agents. Atomic number 33; atomic weight 74.922; valence 3, 5. Gray arsenic melts at 817°C (at 28 atm pressure), sublimes at 614°C, and has a specific gravity of 5.73. adj. ar·sen·ic (är-sěn'ĭk)
Of or containing arsenic, especially with valence 5.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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arsenic in Science
Symbol As
A metalloid element most commonly occurring as a gray crystal, but also found as a yellow crystal and in other forms. Arsenic and its compounds are highly poisonous and are used to make insecticides, weed killers, and various alloys. Atomic number 33; atomic weight 74.922; valence 3, 5. Gray arsenic melts at 817°C (at 28 atm pressure), sublimes at 613°C, and has a specific gravity of 5.73. See Periodic Table.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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