Definition of phosgene in English:



  • [mass noun] A colourless poisonous gas made by the reaction of chlorine and carbon dioxide. It was used as a poison gas, notably in the First World War.

    • ‘New agents, notably phosgene (an asphyxiating agent) and mustard (a blister agent called a vesicant), had been developed and used.’
    • ‘However, its immediate precursor compound, thiodiglycol, is used industrially, although in quantities that don't come anywhere near chlorine or phosgene.’
    • ‘The primary gaseous agents used were chlorine, phosgene, a combination of the two, and mustard gas.’
    • ‘Now obviously all of that wasn't mustard, a lot of the deaths were actually due to phosgene and chlorine.’
    • ‘Greenpeace found that perc breaks down into the toxic byproducts phosgene, vinyl chloride, carbon tetrachloride and trichloroacetic acid.’


Early 19th century: from Greek phōs light + -gen, with reference to its original production by the action of sunlight on chlorine and carbon monoxide.