• synonyms


noun Chemistry.
  1. a colorless, water-insoluble, flammable liquid, C7H8, having a benzenelike odor, obtained chiefly from coal tar and petroleum: used as a solvent in the manufacture of benzoic acid, benzaldehyde, TNT, and other organic compounds.
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Origin of toluene

First recorded in 1870–75; tolu + -ene
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for toluene

Historical Examples

  • What then is the effect of toluene on the living yeast-cell?

    Alcoholic Fermentation

    Arthur Harden

  • It is possible to start from benzene, toluene or naphthalene.

    Creative Chemistry

    Edwin E. Slosson

  • Besides a cymene and a toluene, which have already been shown to exist in rosin spirit, metaxylene was found to be present.

  • That phenomena of this kind may be involved is shown by the remarkable effect of toluene on the autofermentation of yeast.

  • For the first six months only toluene sling thermometers were used.

British Dictionary definitions for toluene


  1. a colourless volatile flammable liquid with an odour resembling that of benzene, obtained from petroleum and coal tar and used as a solvent and in the manufacture of many organic chemicals. Formula: C 6 H 5 CH 3
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Word Origin

C19: from tolu + -ene, since it was previously obtained from tolu
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 toluene


colorless liquid hydrocarbon, 1871, from German toluin (Berzelius, 1842), from Tolu, place in Colombia (now Santiago de Tolu) from which balsam of Tolu was obtained from the bark of certain trees. The chemical so called because it was first distilled from balsam of Tolu.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

toluene in Science


  1. A clear, toxic, flammable liquid that is used in fuels, explosives, dyes, medicines, and many industrial chemicals. Toluene consists of a methyl group attached to benzene. Also called methylbenzene. Chemical formula: C7H8.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.