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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Phenol \Phe"nol\, n. [Gr. ? to show + -ol: cf. F. ph['e]nol.] (Chem.)

  1. A white or pinkish crystalline substance, C6H5OH, produced by the destructive distillation of many organic bodies, as wood, coal, etc., and obtained from the heavy oil from coal tar.

    Note: It has a peculiar odor, somewhat resembling creosote, which is a complex mixture of phenol derivatives. It is of the type of alcohols, and is called also phenyl alcohol, but has acid properties, and hence is popularly called carbolic acid, and was formerly called phenic acid. It is a powerful caustic poison, and in dilute solution has been used as an antiseptic.

  2. Any one of the series of hydroxyl derivatives of which phenol proper is the type.

    Glacial phenol (Chem.), pure crystallized phenol or carbolic acid.

    Phenol acid (Chem.), any one of a series of compounds which are at once derivatives of both phenol and some member of the fatty acid series; thus, salicylic acid is a phenol acid.

    Phenol alcohol (Chem.), any one of series of derivatives of phenol and carbinol which have the properties of both combined; thus, saligenin is a phenol alcohol.

    Phenol aldehyde (Chem.), any one of a series of compounds having both phenol and aldehyde properties.

    Phenol phthalein. See under Phthalein.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"carbolic acid," 1844, from pheno- + -ol. Discovered in coal tar in 1834; used as an antiseptic from 1867. Related: Phenolic.


n. 1 (context organic compound uncountable English) A caustic, poisonous, white crystalline compound, C6H5OH, derived from benzene and used in resins, plastics, and pharmaceuticals and in dilute form as a disinfectant and antiseptic; once called carbolic acid. 2 (context organic chemistry countable English) Any of a class of aromatic organic compounds having at least one hydroxyl group attached directly to the benzene ring.

  1. n. any of a class of weakly acidic organic compounds; molecule contains one or more hydroxyl groups

  2. a toxic white soluble crystalline acidic derivative of benzene; used in manufacturing and as a disinfectant and antiseptic; poisonous if taken internally [syn: carbolic acid, hydroxybenzene, oxybenzene, phenylic acid]


Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, is an aromatic organic compound with the molecular formula CHOH. It is a white crystalline solid that is volatile. The molecule consists of a phenyl group (−CH) bonded to a hydroxyl group (−OH). It is mildly acidic and requires careful handling due to its propensity to cause chemical burns.

Phenol was first extracted from coal tar, but today is produced on a large scale (about 7 billion kg/year) from petroleum. It is an important industrial commodity as a precursor to many materials and useful compounds. It is primarily used to synthesize plastics and related materials. Phenol and its chemical derivatives are essential for production of polycarbonates, epoxies, Bakelite, nylon, detergents, herbicides such as phenoxy herbicides, and numerous pharmaceutical drugs.

Usage examples of "phenol".

You take the buccal swab and swirl it around in a test tube containing a solution that turns acid in the presence of even a microgram of DNA, then add a drop of Phenol Red.

Taylor speaks of a man who fell unconscious ten seconds after an ounce of phenol had been ingested, and in three minutes was dead.

It was a terrible thing to see, so close, so low, packed with chlorides, benzines, phenols, hydrocarbons, or whatever the precise toxic content.

The air was heavy with the scents of ozone from the welding, with melted flux and phenol and plastics.

The zoologist continued, "Then there're traces of formaldehyde, phenol, fructose, dextrose, cellulose.

Catechol, for instance, with two hydroxy groups on the benzene nucleus, dissolves considerably more quickly than does phenol, with only one hydroxy group on the nucleus.

Phenols and nitrobenzene bring to mind ether and shoe polish respectively, and ethylene glycol smells exactly like antifreeze because that's exactly what it is.

The usual pH indicator in tissue culture media is phenol red, which turns clear in acid.

You took the buccal swab and swirled it around in a test tube containing a solution that turns acid in the presence of even a microgram of DNA, then added a drop of phenol red.

Probably she could boil away the more volatile phenols and other organic carcinogens.

You know the indols, the phenols, and the amins are produced both by putrefactive bacteria and by the process of metabolism, the burning up of the tissues in the process of utilizing the energy that means life.

But in fact I was going to New Jersey tomorrow to close someone else down, so Fotex could keep dumping phenols, acetone, phthalates, various solvents, copper, silver, lead, mercury, and zinc into Boston Harbor to their heart's content, at least until I got back.

Formaldehyde, glycerin, borax with a little phenol added and some sodium citrate as an anti-coagulant.