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[fawr-mal-duh-hahyd, fer-] /fɔrˈmæl dəˌhaɪd, fər-/
noun, Chemistry
a colorless, toxic, potentially carcinogenic, water-soluble gas, CH 2 O, having a suffocating odor, usually derived from methyl alcohol by oxidation: used chiefly in aqueous solution, as a disinfectant and preservative, and in the manufacture of various resins and plastics.
Also called methanal.
Compare formalin.
Origin of formaldehyde
1870-75; form(ic) + aldehyde; modeled on German Formaldehyd Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for formaldehyde
  • The smell of spilled chemicals, including methanol and formaldehyde, fills the air.
  • He made his foray onto the art scene by submersing various animals-sharks, sheep, cows-in display cases filled with formaldehyde.
  • For contemporary purveyors of scandal, one might look among the sharks in formaldehyde and heads of frozen human blood.
  • The piece of medical history is now stored in a formaldehyde solution in a cabinet behind the scenes at the museum.
  • He is the artist who has floated a sheep in formaldehyde and sliced a cow into sections and so forth for the sake of sculpture.
  • Their formulaic concept amounts to intellectual formaldehyde.
  • Likely candidates include such recognized or suspected carcinogens as benzene and formaldehyde.
  • The team washed everything with bleach and smoked the victims' rooms with formaldehyde vapor.
  • formaldehyde is toxic, but still widely used to make glues-particularly for the adhesives that hold together plywood.
  • It damages many fuel system components, increases air pollution such as ozone and formaldehyde.
British Dictionary definitions for formaldehyde


a colourless poisonous irritating gas with a pungent characteristic odour, made by the oxidation of methanol and used as formalin and in the manufacture of synthetic resins. Formula: HCHO Systematic name methanal
Word Origin
C19: form(ic) + aldehyde; on the model of German Formaldehyd
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 formaldehyde

pungent gas formed by oxidation of methyl alcohol, 1869, a contraction of formic aldehyde; see formic + aldehyde. Discovered in 1863 by German chemist August Wilhelm von Hofmann (1818-1892).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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formaldehyde in Medicine

formaldehyde for·mal·de·hyde (fôr-māl'də-hīd')
A colorless, gaseous compound that is the simplest aldehyde, used for manufacturing melamine and phenolic resins, fertilizers, dyes, and embalming fluids and in aqueous solution as a preservative and disinfectant.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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formaldehyde in Science
A colorless gas having a sharp, suffocating odor. It is used in making plastics and, when dissolved in a solution of water and methanol, to preserve biological specimens. Chemical formula: CH2O.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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