One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
The chemical element of atomic number 15, a poisonous, combustible nonmetal which exists in two common allotropic forms, white phosphorus, a yellowish waxy solid which ignites spontaneously in air and glows in the dark, and red phosphorus, a less reactive form used in making matches.
Phosphorus is abundant in the earth's crust in the form of phosphates. It is essential to living organisms; organic phosphates are involved in storing energy in cells, and calcium phosphate is a major component of bone. The main commercial use of phosphorus compounds is in fertilizers
- ‘The three major nutrients in river water are carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus.’
- ‘Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur and boron have been found to be important in Zambia.’
- ‘Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc are the major minerals that make up bones.’
- ‘When the mix is placed in soil and watered, it starts a chemical reaction that frees phosphorus that plants can use.’
- ‘The main pollutants were found to contain nitrogen, phosphorus, oil and copper.’
Late 17th century: from Latin, from Greek phōsphoros, from phōs ‘light’ + -phoros ‘-bringing’.
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