Definition of benzene in English:



  • [mass noun] A colourless volatile liquid hydrocarbon present in coal tar and petroleum, and used in chemical synthesis. Its use as a solvent has been reduced because of its carcinogenic properties.

    • ‘Cholesterol is soluble in chloroform, ether, benzene, or hot alcohol and other organic solvents.’
    • ‘The new targets relate to a number of chemicals including benzene, carbon monoxide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.’
    • ‘The alkanes are very poorly soluble in water but are soluble with many of the other organic solvents such as chloroform and benzene.’
    • ‘Its most toxic ingredient is benzene, a volatile organic compound that increases the risk of cancer.’
    • ‘City traffic is a significant source of pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, particulate matter, benzene, and carbon monoxide.’


Mid 19th century: from benzoic acid + -ene.