One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
nounmass nouninformal, historical
Gangrene of the jawbone caused by phosphorus poisoning.
- ‘Phossy jaw is a very distressing form of industrial disease.’
- ‘Many of the women suffered from ‘phossy jaw’, a particularly nasty form of bone cancer caused by handling the yellow phosphorus used in match production.’
Late 19th century: phossy by abbreviation of phosphorus necrosis, denoting gangrene of the jaw.
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