mercury

[ mur-kyuh-ree ]
/ ˈmɜr kyə ri /
|

noun, plural mer·cu·ries.


Nearby words

  1. mercurize,
  2. mercuro-,
  3. mercurochrome,
  4. mercurous,
  5. mercurous chloride,
  6. mercury arc,
  7. mercury barometer,
  8. mercury chloride,
  9. mercury fulminate,
  10. mercury mass

Origin of mercury

1300–50; Middle English Mercurie < Medieval Latin, Latin Mercurius, akin to merx goods

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for mercury


British Dictionary definitions for mercury

mercury

/ (ˈmɜːkjʊrɪ) /

noun plural -ries

Also called: quicksilver, hydrargyrum a heavy silvery-white toxic liquid metallic element occurring principally in cinnabar: used in thermometers, barometers, mercury-vapour lamps, and dental amalgams. Symbol: Hg; atomic no: 80; atomic wt: 200.59; valency: 1 or 2; relative density: 13.546; melting pt: –38.842°C; boiling pt: 357°C
any plant of the euphorbiaceous genus MercurialisSee dog's mercury
archaic a messenger or courier

Word Origin for mercury

C14: from Latin Mercurius messenger of Jupiter, god of commerce; related to merx merchandise

Mercury

1
/ (ˈmɜːkjʊrɪ) /

noun

Roman myth the messenger of the godsGreek counterpart: Hermes

Mercury

2
/ (ˈmɜːkjʊrɪ) /

noun

the second smallest planet and the nearest to the sun. Mean distance from sun: 57.9 million km; period of revolution around sun: 88 days; period of axial rotation: 59 days; diameter and mass: 38 and 5.4 per cent that of earth respectively
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for mercury
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for mercury

mercury

[ mûrkyə-rē ]

n. Symbol Hg

A silvery-white poisonous metallic element, liquid at room temperature, used in thermometers and various pharmaceuticals including antiseptics, diuretics, and antibacterials. Its radioisotope Hg-197 is used in diagnostic imaging of renal function and in brain scans. Atomic number 80.hydrargyrum

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for mercury

mercury

[ mûrkyə-rē ]

Hg

A silvery-white, dense, poisonous metallic element that is a liquid at room temperature and is used in thermometers, barometers, batteries, and pesticides. Atomic number 80; atomic weight 200.59; melting point -38.87°C; boiling point 356.58°C; specific gravity 13.546 (at 20°C); valence 1, 2. See Periodic Table.

Word History

Like a few other elements, mercury has a chemical symbol, Hg, that bears no resemblance to its name. This is because Hg is an abbreviation of the Latin name of the element, which was hydrargium. This word in turn was taken over from Greek, where it literally meant “water-silver.” With this name the Greeks were referring to the fact that mercury is a silvery liquid at room temperature, rather than a solid like other metals. Similarly, an older English name for this element is quicksilver, which means “living silver,” referring to its ability to move like a living thing. (The word quick used to mean “alive,” as in the Biblical phrase “the quick and the dead.”) The name mercury refers to the fact that the element flows about quickly: the name comes from the Roman god Mercury, who was the swift-footed messenger of the gods.

Mercury

The planet closest to the Sun and the smallest in the solar system. Mercury is a terrestrial or inner planet, second in density only to Earth, with a rugged, heavily-cratered surface similar in appearance to Earth's Moon. Its rotational period of 58.6 days is two-thirds of its 88-day orbital period, thus, it makes three full axial rotations every two years. Mercury's atmosphere is almost nonexistent; this fact, which produces rapid radiational cooling on its dark side, together with its proximity to the Sun, gives it a temperature range greater than any other planet in the solar system, from 466° to -184°C (870° to -300°F). Because it is so close to the Sun, Mercury is only visible shortly before sunrise or after sunset, and observation is further hindered by the fact that its light must pass obliquely through the lower atmosphere where it is distorted or filtered by dust and pollution. See Table at solar system.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for mercury

Mercury

The Roman name of Hermes, the messenger of the Greek and Roman gods.

Note

The planet nearest the sun is named Mercury. It moves swiftly in its orbit like the messenger of the gods.

Mercury

In astronomy, the planet closest to the sun, named after the fleet-footed messenger of the Roman gods (see under “Mythology and Folklore”) because of its swift movement in its orbit. Mercury takes only eighty-eight days to go around the sun. (See solar system.)

Note

Mercury is sometimes visible from the Earth as a morning or evening star.

In chemistry, a heavy, silvery metallic element, a liquid at normal temperatures. Mercury expands or contracts rapidly in response to changes in temperature and therefore was once widely used in thermometers.

Note

The term mercury is used figuratively in such expressions as “The mercury's rising” to mean that the temperature is going up.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.