Meaning of phlogiston in English:


Pronunciation /fləˈdʒɪst(ə)n/ /fləˈɡɪst(ə)n/


mass noun
  • A substance supposed by 18th-century chemists to exist in all combustible bodies, and to be released in combustion.

    ‘In the phlogiston theory, phlogiston is released during combustion, and in the oxygen theory, oxygen is absorbed during combustion.’
    • ‘According to the phlogiston theory, combustible materials contain a substance - phlogiston - that is emitted by the material as it burns.’
    • ‘Biologists used to believe in the inheritance of acquired characteristics, chemists in phlogiston, physicists in absolute (pre-relativity) time.’
    • ‘And combustion, as they understood it, happened when phlogiston, a hypothetical earthlike substance characterized mainly by its combustibility, was removed from an object.’
    • ‘For example, sun-centered astronomy replaced earth-centered, oxygen superseded phlogiston, and absolute space gave way to curved space.’


Mid 18th century modern Latin, from Greek phlogizein ‘set on fire’, from phlox, phlog- ‘flame’, from the base of phlegein ‘to burn’.