One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A pleasant-smelling colourless volatile liquid that is highly flammable. It is used as an anaesthetic and as a solvent or intermediate in industrial processes.
Alternative names: diethyl ether, ethoxyethane; chemical formula: C₂H₅OC₂H₅
- ‘To knock someone out, ether would have to be applied in a highly concentrated form (such as an ether-soaked rag).’
- ‘In the recent past dentists were instrumental in the introduction of diethyl ether and nitrous oxide.’
- ‘The animals were anesthetized with diethyl ether, and their abdomens were opened by a midline incision.’
- ‘The lipid was redissolved in diethyl ether that was then re-evaporated under nitrogen to complete dryness.’
- ‘Although ether was once a popular anesthesia agent, its use is now strongly discouraged.’
- 1.1count noun Any organic compound with a similar structure to ether, having an oxygen atom linking two alkyl or other organic groups.‘methyl t-butyl ether’
- ‘Included among these compounds are some of the best known of all chemical families, including the hydrocarbons, alcohols, ethers, aldehydes and ketones, and organic acids.’
- ‘The emissions from surface-treated wood-based materials mainly originated from the oils and lacquers, and were mainly alcohols, unsaturated aldehydes, esters, glycol ethers, and glycol esters.’
- ‘The chemicals included aliphatic hydrocarbons, glycol ethers, isopropanol, limonene, naphtha, oils, and varnishes.’
- ‘Vinyl ethers are made by addition of alcohols to acetylene.’
- ‘Cosmetics tested were found to contain a variety of industrial chemicals, including phthalates (reproductive toxins) and glycol ethers (neurotoxins).’
- ‘In the most recent case with farmed salmon, the culprit chemical compound is polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, used widely as flame retardants in furniture and electronic goods.’
2literary The clear sky; the upper regions of air beyond the clouds.‘nasty gases and smoke disperse into the ether’
sky, heavensView synonyms
- ‘A controlled mind is like clear ether which the radiance of the sun can shine through.’
- 2.1the etherinformal Air regarded as a medium for radio.‘choral evensong still wafts across the ether’
- ‘I don't know if any Americans are listening right now but I feel bound to make my small stamp on the ether on polling day.’
- ‘That really did concern me, because if New Zealanders are not pricking up their ears to listen to a wide range of programming on National Radio, then it is just broadcasting into the ether, and there really is not that much point to it.’
- ‘The album leads the listener through a sonic tour of the ether on a radio ship picking up the most interesting sound tidbits floating about, bouncing around and intermingling with each other.’
- ‘When you work in television and radio what you do disappears into the ether, so it is very rewarding to do something with a longer shelf life.’
archaic A very rarefied and highly elastic substance formerly believed to permeate all space, including the interstices between the particles of matter, and to be the medium whose vibrations constituted light and other electromagnetic radiation.‘the motion of the planets would be retarded by the ether through which they moved’
- ‘Nineteenth-century physicists postulated the existence of an elastic solid, the aether, to account for the propagation of light.’
- ‘Maxwell believed electromagnetic waves such as light to be vibrations in the ether.’
- ‘I am curious as to exactly when scientists found out that space is a vacuum and not made up of ether?’
- ‘By 1900 the concept of the ether as a material substance was being questioned.’
- ‘Similarly, it was believed, light waves needed the aether through which to travel.’
Late Middle English: from Old French, or via Latin from Greek aithēr ‘upper air’, from the base of aithein ‘burn, shine’. Originally the word denoted a substance believed to occupy space beyond the sphere of the moon. ether (sense 3) arose in the mid 17th century and ether (sense 1) in the mid 18th century.
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