(Science: chemistry) A colourless nonmetallic element, tasteless and odorless, comprising four fifths of the atmosphere by volume. It is chemically very inert in the free state, and as such is incapable of supporting life (hence the name azote still used by french chemists); but it forms many important compounds, as ammonia, nitric acid, the cyanides, etc, and is a constituent of all organised living tissues, animal or vegetable. Symbol N. Atomic weight 14. It was formerly regarded as a permanent noncondensible gas, but was liquefied in 1877 by Cailletet of paris, and Pictet of geneva.
Origin: L. Nitrum natron _ -gen: cf. F. Nitrogene. See Niter.