Words related to nitre

natron (n.)

"native carbonate of sodium," 1680s, from French natron (1660s), which is said to be directly from Arabic natrun, itself from Greek nitron, itself possibly of Eastern origin (see nitre). Medieval Latin and Paracelsus (16c.) had a form anatron, from Arabic with the article assimilated (an-natron). It is the source of the chemical symbol Na for sodium and the word-forming element natro-, used in the names of minerals to indicate the presence of sodium.

nitrate (n.)

"a salt formed of nitric acid and a base," 1794, from French nitrate (1787) or Modern Latin nitratum, or formed in English from nitre + -ate (3). Related: Nitrates.

nitric (adj.)

"of, pertaining to, or derived from nitre," 1794, originally in reference to acid obtained initially from distillation of saltpeter; see nitre + -ic. Perhaps immediately from French nitrique. The acid was known as aqua fortis, later acid spirit of nitre, then nitric acid (1787) under the system ordered by Lavoisier.

nitrification (n.)

"process by which nitrogen in soil is oxidized to nitric acid," 1789, from French nitrification (1778), from nitrifier (1777), from nitre (see nitre). English nitrify "convert into nitre" is attested by 1800.


before vowels nitr-, word-forming element used scientifically and indicating nitrogen, nitrate, or nitric acid; from Greek nitron (see nitre).

nitrous (adj.)

c. 1600, "of nitre, pertaining to nitre," from Latin nitrosus, from nitrum (see nitre). The more precise use in chemistry (designating a compound in which the nitrogen has a lower valence than the corresponding nitric compound) is from 1780s. Middle English had nitrose "nitrous in quality; bitter, sour" (early 15c.). Nitrous oxide "laughing gas" is attested from 1800.

When inhaled it produces unconsciousness and insensibility to pain; hence it is used as an anesthetic during short surgical operations. When it is breathed diluted with air an exhilarating or intoxicating effect is produced under the influence of which the inhaler is irresistibly impelled to do all kinds of silly and extravagant acts; hence the old name of laughing-gas. [Century Dictionary, 1895]