One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A bitter yellow compound obtained by nitrating phenol, used as a dye and in the manufacture of explosives.
- ‘Nitrogen is an important component of common chemical explosives like TNT, nitroglycerin, gunpowder, guncotton, nitrocellulose, picric acid, and ammonium nitrate.’
- ‘Other possible inhibitors are unusual fixatives, such as B5 or any solution containing picric acid.’
- ‘In addition, some of the chemicals could be hazardous: picric acid was explosive, and the arsenic compounds could be toxic to the wearer.’
- ‘Marks recounts how some painted their legs and arms vivid yellow with picric acid to protect against sunburn.’
- ‘A council report carried out by Environmental Health officers picked out hot-spots of contamination with cancer-causing asbestos spores and toxic picric acid among the chemicals identified.’
Mid 19th century: picric from Greek pikros ‘bitter’ + -ic.
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