One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A substance supposed by 18th-century chemists to exist in all combustible bodies, and to be released in combustion.
- ‘Biologists used to believe in the inheritance of acquired characteristics, chemists in phlogiston, physicists in absolute (pre-relativity) time.’
- ‘In the phlogiston theory, phlogiston is released during combustion, and in the oxygen theory, oxygen is absorbed during combustion.’
- ‘According to the phlogiston theory, combustible materials contain a substance - phlogiston - that is emitted by the material as it burns.’
- ‘For example, sun-centered astronomy replaced earth-centered, oxygen superseded phlogiston, and absolute space gave way to curved space.’
- ‘And combustion, as they understood it, happened when phlogiston, a hypothetical earthlike substance characterized mainly by its combustibility, was removed from an object.’
Mid 18th century: modern Latin, from Greek phlogizein ‘set on fire’, from phlox, phlog- ‘flame’, from the base of phlegein ‘to burn’.
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