Definition of nitrile in US English:



  • An organic compound containing a cyanide group —CN bound to an alkyl group.

    • ‘They also rejected bridgehead double bonds and allenes, and (to my surprise) only allowed triple bonds for nitriles (so no acetylenes.)’
    • ‘In this reaction, an ester joins with another ester, a ketone, or a nitrile.’
    • ‘These toxins include nitriles, isothiocyanates, oxozaladines, and epithioalkanes.’
    • ‘Secondary and tertiary amides are prepared by reacting primary amides or nitriles with organic acids.’
    • ‘But common nitriles, such as hydrogen cyanide have masses more similar to nitrogen or methane, making them harder to pick out of the INMS results with only one night's study.’


Mid 19th century: from niter + -ile (alteration of -yl).