One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Each of a number of isomeric, crystalline, heteroaromatic compounds having the formula C₁₂H₈N₂, whose molecules have a tricyclic phenanthrene ring system in which one CH group in each of the two outer rings is replaced by a nitrogen atom; especially (in full "1,10-phenanthroline"), the ortho isomer, which is used as an indicator for iron, with which it forms a red-orange complex.
Late 19th century; earliest use found in Journal of the Chemical Society. From phenanthr- + -oline, after German Phenanthrolin.
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