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[sil-i-kuh n, -kon] /ˈsɪl ɪ kən, -ˌkɒn/
noun, Chemistry.
a nonmetallic element, having amorphous and crystalline forms, occurring in a combined state in minerals and rocks and constituting more than one fourth of the earth's crust: used in steelmaking, alloys, etc. Symbol: Si; atomic weight: 28.086; atomic number: 14; specific gravity: 2.4 at 20°C.
Origin of silicon
1817; silic(a) + -on, as in carbon and boron
Can be confused
silicon, silicone. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for silicon
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Wrought iron is made by burning out from cast iron most of the carbon, silicon, phosphorus, and sulphur which it contains.

  • Their pseudo-flesh is composed mainly of silicon and fluorine.

    Masters of Space Edward Elmer Smith
  • When the leaf is green the silicon is not so obvious; it is nevertheless there.

    Birds of the Plains Douglas Dewar
  • One of the best of these is a mixture of iron and silicon, called ferro-silicon.

    Checking the Waste Mary Huston Gregory
  • This stirring admitted air to the mass and the oxygen consumed and expelled the carbon, silicon, and other impurities.

    Inventions in the Century William Henry Doolittle
British Dictionary definitions for silicon


  1. a brittle metalloid element that exists in two allotropic forms; occurs principally in sand, quartz, granite, feldspar, and clay. It is usually a grey crystalline solid but is also found as a brown amorphous powder. It is used in transistors, rectifiers, solar cells, and alloys. Its compounds are widely used in glass manufacture, the building industry, and in the form of silicones. Symbol: Si; atomic no: 14; atomic wt: 28.0855; valency: 4; relative density: 2.33; melting pt: 1414°C; boiling pt: 3267°C
  2. (modifier; sometimes capital) denoting an area of a country that contains a density of high-technology industry
Word Origin
C19: from silica, on the model of boron, carbon
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 silicon

nonmetallic element, 1817, coined by British chemist Thomas Thomson from silica (silicon dioxide), from which it was isolated. The name is patterned on carbon, etc. Silicon chip first attested 1965; Silicon Valley for the Santa Clara Valley south of San Francisco, U.S., first attested 1974, from the concentration of manufacturers of silicon chips used in computers, watches, etc.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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silicon in Medicine

silicon sil·i·con (sĭl'ĭ-kən, -kŏn')
Symbol Si
A nonmetallic element occurring extensively in the earth's crust in silica and silicates, having both an amorphous and a crystalline allotrope and used in glass and semiconducting devices. Atomic number 14; atomic weight 28.086; melting point 1,414°C; boiling point 3,265°C; specific gravity 2.33; valence 4.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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silicon in Science
Symbol Si
A metalloid element that occurs in both gray crystalline and brown noncrystalline forms. It is the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust and can be found only in silica and silicates. Silicon is used in glass, semiconductors, concrete, and ceramics. Atomic number 14; atomic weight 28.086; melting point 1,410°C; boiling point 2,355°C; specific gravity 2.33; valence 4. See Periodic Table.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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silicon in Culture
silicon [(sil-i-kon, sil-i-kuhn)]

A chemical element from which semiconductors are made. It is also used in the manufacture of glass, concrete, brick, and pottery.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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silicon in Technology

1. The material used as the base (or "substrate") for most integrated circuits.
2. Hardware, especially integrated circuits or microprocessor-based computer systems (compare iron).
Contrast: software. See also sandbender.
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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