oxygen


oxygen
oxygen (n.) gaseous chemical element, 1790, from Fr. oxygène, coined in 1777 by French chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794), from Gk. oxys "sharp, acid" (see ACRID (Cf. acrid)) + Fr. -gène "something that produces" (from Gk. -genes "formation, creation;" see -GEN (Cf. -gen)).
Intended to mean "acidifying (principle)," from Fr. principe acidifiant. So called because oxygen was then considered essential in the formation of acids (it is now known not to be). The element was isolated by Priestley (1774), who, using the old model of chemistry, called it dephlogisticated air. The downfall of the phlogiston theory required a new name, which Lavoisier provided.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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