One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Liable to ignite spontaneously on exposure to air.
- ‘It is pyrophoric, generating intense heat on impact, penetrating a tank because of the heavy weight of its metal.’
- ‘In addition to the radioactivity, DU is chemically toxic, pyrophoric and usually spreads aerolisized particles over a large area on impact.’
- ‘We have a lot of pyrophoric substances in an organic chemistry lab - things that burst into flame when they encounter normal air.’
- ‘It is pyrophoric, burning spontaneously on impact, and extremely dense.’
- 1.1 (of an alloy) emitting sparks when scratched or struck.
- ‘One of the oldest uses for praseodymium is in the manufacture of misch metal, a pyrophoric metal.’
- ‘The Army and other pyrophoric uranium munitions NRC licensees should admit the quantity of UO3 vapor produced by such weapons.’
- ‘Aside from being very dense and pyrophoric, depleted uranium shells also have a nasty tendency to vaporise.’
Mid 19th century: from modern Latin pyrophorus, from Greek purophoros ‘fire-bearing’, from pur ‘fire’ + pherein ‘to bear’.
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