Stories We Like: A Guide to the Comma
gaseous chemical element, 1790, from French oxygène, coined in 1777 by French chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794), from Greek oxys "sharp, acid" (see acrid) + French -gène "something that produces" (from Greek -genes "formation, creation;" see -gen).
Intended to mean "acidifying (principle)," it was a Greeking of French principe acidifiant. So called because oxygen was then considered essential in the formation of acids (it is now known not to be). The element was isolated by Priestley (1774), who, using the old model of chemistry, called it dephlogisticated air. The downfall of the phlogiston theory required a new name, which Lavoisier provided.
oxygen ox·y·gen (ŏk'sĭ-jən)
An element constituting 21 percent of the atmosphere by volume that occurs as a diatomic gas, O2, combines with most elements, is essential for plant and animal respiration, and is required for nearly all combustion. Atomic number 8; atomic weight 15.9994; melting point -218.8°C; boiling point -183.0°C; gas density at 0°C 1.429 grams per liter; valence 2.
A medicinal gas containing not less than 99.0 percent, by volume, of O2.
A nonmetallic element that exists in its free form as a colorless, odorless gas and makes up about 21 percent of the Earth's atmosphere. It is the most abundant element in the Earth's crust and occurs in many compounds, including water, carbon dioxide, and iron ore. Oxygen combines with most elements, is required for combustion, and is essential for life in most organisms. Atomic number 8; atomic weight 15.9994; melting point -218.4°C; boiling point -183.0°C; gas density at 0°C 1.429 grams per liter; valence 2. See Periodic Table.
Our Living Language : In 1786, the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier coined a term for the element oxygen (oxygène in French). He used Greek words for the coinage: oxy- means "sharp," and -gen means "producing." Oxygen was called the "sharp-producing" element because it was thought to be essential for making acids. Lavoisier also coined the name of the element hydrogen, the "water-producing" element, in 1788. Soon after, in 1791, another French chemist, J. A. Chaptal, introduced the word nitrogen, the "niter-producing" element, referring to its discovery from an analysis of nitric acid.
Note: When we breathe in oxygen, it is carried by the hemoglobin in our blood throughout the body, where it is used to generate energy by oxidation. (See respiration.)
Note: Oxygen is a waste product of green plants and photosynthesis.