Definition of arsenic in English:



  • [mass noun] The chemical element of atomic number 33, a brittle steel-grey semimetal.

    • ‘Studies have suggested that arsenic is able to impair DNA repair enzymes and alter the repair of UV-induced DNA damage.’
    • ‘Earlier this year, the British journal Lancet published a report saying that a test of strands of George III's hair contained arsenic, which can provoke porphyria attacks.’
    • ‘It is also extremely likely that chemicals such as cyanide and arsenic will be leached into the local water systems.’
    • ‘It's a free for all at that stage,’ said Mr Campion pointing out that treated timber alone can contain poisonous arsenic.’
    • ‘The ad was based on the latest findings of the National Research Council and a citizens' sampling program that found high levels of cancer-causing arsenic in wood from Home Depot stores nationwide.’
    • ‘In animals and plants, arsenic combines with carbon and hydrogen to form organic arsenic.’
    • ‘Many feared the problems had been caused by once dormant heavy metals, including cadmium and arsenic, now emerging from a redundant coke workings.’
    • ‘Apart from any physiological effects on chickens themselves or consumers, feed additives introduce tons of organic arsenic into the environment every year, says Stolz.’
    • ‘After initial reluctance, the Administration has also implemented Clinton-era proposals to reduce arsenic in drinking water and air pollution from diesel trucks and tractors.’
    • ‘These chemicals are now a source of arsenic in agricultural soil and in groundwater in the Mid-Atlantic region.’
    • ‘For eight years they never demanded any lessening of carbon-dioxide emissions and allowed arsenic to remain in the drinking water of millions of Americans.’
    • ‘Animal research has established a bidirectional effect of selenium and arsenic with each metal preventing a toxic effect of the other.’
    • ‘Harvey's team suggests that organic carbon feeds chemical reactions that liberate arsenic from minerals in the soil.’
    • ‘In recent month residents have raised complaints after dust containing lethal poisons, including cadmium and arsenic, was found in their homes.’
    • ‘First, the roller coaster's wooden components have been treated with copper, chromium and arsenic, a carcinogen.’
    • ‘Large numbers of persons in areas of India, Pakistan, and several other countries have been chronically poisoned from naturally occurring arsenic in ground water.’
    • ‘Both cadmium and arsenic are ubiquitous in the environment, and exposure through food and water as well as occupational sources can contribute to a well-defined spectrum of disease.’
    • ‘Gone will be the chromium and arsenic, which are being replaced by a solution of ammonia.’
    • ‘Well basically CCA treated timber is treated with copper, chromium and arsenic, which is injected into the wood under pressure.’
    • ‘The 38-year-old lawyer was poisoned with arsenic on September 7, 2004, while flying to the Netherlands.’


  • 1Relating to arsenic.

    • ‘They bought television time to attack his efforts to reverse Clinton-era plans to cut arsenic levels in drinking water.’
    • ‘But subsequent medical tests cleared him of any acute or chronic arsenic poisoning.’
    • ‘It turns out that they were victims of chromated copper arsenic poisoning.’
    • ‘In January, the EPA officially ordered a new national arsenic limit of 10 ppb.’
    • ‘Your article on arsenic poisoning of drinking water in Bangladesh and India (International, August 8) clearly illustrated a terrible disaster for many millions of people.’
    • ‘You'd make a good psychologist, executioner, black widow, arsenic poisoner, heretic queen or commentator.’
    • ‘After examining her, doctors diagnosed arsenic poisoning and said it was caused by drinking contaminated water in her native village on the India-Bangladesh border since childhood.’
    • ‘One of about 600 Bangladeshi people, who claim they suffered arsenic poisoning because of a Swindon organization, has filed a writ in a damages case worth up to £30m.’
    • ‘According to an autopsy, the activist who had been a staunch critic of human rights violations by the military died of arsenic poisoning.’
    • ‘He was murdered on September 6 by arsenic poisoning while on a Geruda Airlines flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam.’
    • ‘However, just as the discovery of arsenic contamination undermined years of work to provide clean drinking water, crises such as the current floods demonstrate how easily such progress can be set back.’
    • ‘Even the newest idea of converting chicken litter into energy has been called into question because of the risk of airborne arsenic levels that are high enough to cause even more problems.’
    • ‘The autopsy, which was conducted by Dutch doctors, found excessive arsenic levels in his body, leading to the preliminary conclusion that he was poisoned during the flight.’
    • ‘Where previously river weed had been gathered to keep the river clear and running free and then was used for fertiliser, this new weed could not be used because of its arsenic content.’
    • ‘But a subsequent ministry study found arsenic levels in the seabed were 100 times higher at the dumping site than in other parts of the bay.’
    • ‘MSF doctors still inject sleeping sickness patients with melarsoprol, an arsenic derivative so toxic that it melts plastic syringes and kills 1 in 20 patients.’
    • ‘The Berkeley folks are also studying 200 bladder cancer patients in Kings County, northern California, where arsenic levels reach 50 ppb.’
    • ‘That's why the Republicans kept the Clinton rules on lead disclosure and diesel pollution, and agreed to issue an arsenic standard.’
    • ‘Another case of arsenic poisoning was that of Claire Booth Luce, a United States ambassador to Italy in the years after World War II.’
    • ‘Since following UN advice to dig deeper wells 12 years ago, 15,000 serious cases of arsenic poisoning have been identified.’
    1. 1.1Chemistry Of arsenic with a valency of five; of arsenic(V).
      Compare with arsenious
      • ‘This finding is of great concern inasmuch as the protection principle and measures of gaseous arsine are different from the airborne arsenic particulate.’
      • ‘So doping silicon with arsenic injects a precious few extra electrons: one for every arsenic atom.’
      • ‘Paul Ehrlich at Frankfurt started his studies on the therapeutic value of organic arsenic compounds in September 1906.’
      • ‘When heated in air, it reacts with oxygen to form arsenic oxide.’
      • ‘All of these came from natural sources such as madder, kermes, red and white lead, verdigris, yellow ochre, yellow arsenic sulphide, oak gall, indigo and woad and lapis lazuli.’
      • ‘Further dilutions only serve to reduce our chance of finding an arsenic ion by an order of magnitude each time.’


Late Middle English (denoting yellow orpiment, arsenic sulphide): via Old French from Latin arsenicum, from Greek arsenikon yellow orpiment, identified with arsenikos male, but in fact from Arabic al-zarnīḵ the orpiment, based on Persian zar gold.